PIETERMARITZBURG, March 31 (ANA) – Maritzburg United cemented their status as a club on the up after they held off Bloemfontein Celtic with a 2-1 win at a wet Harry Gwala Stadium on Saturday afternoon to book their place in the Nedbank Cup semi-finals.
The visiting team put up a good fight and on another day might have come away with more. But after an early goal from Lebohang Maboe was cancelled out by Jacky Motshegwa’s second half strike, Andrea Fileccia won the match with a clinically-taken 80th minute goal.
The first half was action packed and the tone was set after just 45 seconds when the ball broke to Maboe just inside the box, the Maritzburg midfielder doing superbly to drag the ball back past two defenders before sliding a left-footed drive in at the far post to put the hosts ahead.
Celtic came back fighting but couldn’t conjure up any clear-cut chances and instead it was Maritzburg who nearly scored again when Bandile Shandu thumped a curling effort into the crossbar on the 25 minute mark.
Home keeper Richard Ofori was called into action for the first time five minutes later when he did well to keep out a rasping drive from Lucky Baloyi.
Celtic were on the front foot now and were unlucky not to equalise from the resultant corner when Ronald Pfumbidzai powered a header into the crossbar.
Having got into the half-time break with their lead intact, the KZN side came out firing after the restart and after a couple of half chances, it took a fantastic reflex save by Celtic keeper Patrick Tingyemb after Deolin Mekoa had fired goal-wards on the back end of a scintillating counter.
There was work too for Ofori at the opposite end of the park when the Ghanaian shot-stopper kept out a sweetly-struck free kick from Kabelo Dlamini.
And having had a penalty appeal turned down when the ball appeared to strike home defender Siyanda Xulu’s arm in the box, Phunya Sele Sele were back on level terms 14 minutes from time when after a goal-mouth scramble, Jacky Motshegwa’s shot deflected past Ofori and into goal.
The Team of Choice sprung back into action though and just four minutes later they reclaimed their lead when Maboe’s precise through ball was brilliantly finished off by Fileccia, the Belgian steering a first time angled shot in at the far post.
Maritzburg had to soak up some substantial late pressure from Celtic, but some committed defending saw them making it through to the final whistle, and with that a place in the semi-finals for the rising power from KZN Midlands.