An impressive display by Maritzburg United ended in a draw in Limpopo on Tuesday night, as Black Leopards displayed their fighting quality
Maritzburg United went into the game unbeaten and in a strong second position on the PSL table. However their weak record in Limpopo and a tough Black Leopards side called for a strong performance from the Pietermaritzburg side.
Black Leopards welcomed back Mongezi Bobe, their player of the season in the last PSL campaign. Leopards were hoping to recover from their 2-1 defeat against Kaizer Chiefs last week. Their impressive home record makes them a difficult team to beat in Limpopo.
A dominant Maritzburg United experienced Leopard's ability to defend a lead first hand, as the Limpopo side scored a surprise first half goal and showed their character, keeping an attack-minded United out for 46 minutes before the visitors found a reply.
The Team of Choice looked dangerous in the early minutes of the game with Mthokozisi Yende heading over the bar and Cuthbert Malajiila forcing an early save by Leopard's goalkeeper Ayanda Mtshali.
They controlled possession and looked to find a way through the Black Leopards defence. However Leopards showed that they too could threaten, with a shot from midfielder Rodney Ramagalela going wide in the 16th minute.
Ramagalela would not make the same mistake twice, as he made a run into the box and latched onto a pass by Raymond Monoma in the 17th minute. He buried the pass with a left-footed shot into the right corner of Maritzburg United's goal.
Leopards had scored against the run of play and Maritzburg United had to find a way to turn their possession into an equaliser.
Delron Buckley showed his quality with an accurate free kick which forced goalkeeper Mthsali to tip the ball around the post. The resulting corner led to a wide shot by defender Ruben Cloete, an all together familiar result in the plot of the first half.
The Team of Choice were applying pressure on the Leopards defence, but their shooting was either awry or could not beat the impressive Mthhali. They had already created nine shooting opportunities by the 30th minute underlying their dominance of the first half.
Leopards looked to play an aggressive defensive game which resulted in a yellow card for Samuel Mabunda in the 45th minute. They closed out the first half, a team under siege but still threatening to take the game away from Maritzburg United.
The second half was riddled with fouls in its opening minutes, resulting in a rather stale beginning to the half. Maritzburg United still controlled the game, but Leopards looked impassable in defence. There were chinks in their armour however.
Finally in the 63rd minute Maritzburg United made all the pressure pay with a strike from Ruben Cloete which resulted from a period of sustained attacking momentum from the visitors.
Delron Buckley was the main instigator of the equaliser, as his pass created the space for Cloete to find the back of the net.
The winner was on hand for the Team of Choice, as they were looking stronger than their opponents. Cuthbert Malajiila made the victory a reality with a goal in the 82nd minute. Buckley was once again involved as Malajiila scored from close range following a pass from Buckley.
Leopards responded in style however, denying Maritzburg United their first win in Limpopo as Nkosiyabo Xakane crossed the ball into the box from the left wing and Raymond Monoma scored with his left foot, sparking scenes of celebration.
The draw will disappoint a Maritzburg United side which should have won following their possession and pressure throughout the match. However Black Leopards will be buouyed by their display and the draw should give them confidence.