We may be just four games into the new Premier Soccer League season, but perennial mid-table also-rans Maritzburg United have upset South Africa’s big guns by overtaking early pacesetters Kaizer Chiefs and Free State Stars.
Maritzburg have never achieved a top-half finish in the PSL since promotion to the top flight in 2007-08, but a continuation of the unbeaten start that has seen The Team of Choice shoot to the national summit could culminate in a serious title charge being mounted.
Ernst Middendorp’s men were denied a third win in four games on Friday night when visitors Free State Stars claimed a late equalizer through Dave Wome, cancelling out Maritzburg defender Mario Booysen’s headed opener – the centre-back’s second of the season, a strike rate better than many of his more attacking team-mates.
Friday night’s other fixture was a mouthwatering top-half clash between 2011-12 runners-up Moroka Swallows and newly-promoted Pretoria University. The game didn’t disappoint – the two teams cooked up a 5-goal thriller, including two strikes in the final ten minutes. Two headers from 6ft 4 forward Mame Niang, sandwiched by a Katlego Mashego goal for Swallows , saw Pretoria end the first half with a 2-1 lead. Home winger Bennett Chenene must have thought he had earned a point for his team after equalising on 80 minutes, but just 120 seconds later Mpho Maruping made sure Pretoria grabbed the win.
On paper, perhaps the least enticing fixture of the round was SuperSport United vs AmaZulu: the clubs had somehow scored just once between them in a combined 6 league games so far this season; SuperSport had played out two consecutive goalless draws, while AmaZulu had failed to find the net in the PSL since a 2-2 draw with Santos in May.
Given this history, it was perhaps inevitable that only one of the two teams would manage to score in this game, and that was the case. SuperSport ran out 3-0 winners – thanks to a Mabhuti Khenyeza brace and Clifford Mulenga’s late volley – condemning AmaZulu to the bottom of the table with just one point to their name.
Platinum Stars may be one of the PSL’s early strugglers, but they restricted 2011-12 champions Orlando Pirates to a narrow 1-0 win – and the visitors needed 70 minutes to break the deadlock. Though Pirates were worthy winners over the 90 minutes, Platinum Stars deserve praise for their defensive resolve which suffered a large blow when centre-back Thabiso Semenya was sent-off early on.
Elsewhere, Golden Arrows claimed their first league win of the season with a 1-0 success against fellow strugglers Mamelodi Sundowns, thanks to Thanduyise Khuboni’s injury time winner from the penalty spot; Bloemfontein Celtic pipped Ajax Cape Town to the three points when Lerato Manzini’s double overturned Granwald Scott’s opener; and Chippa United earned only the second PSL point of their history in a 1-1 draw with Wits University. Chippa were denied a first-ever top-flight victory when Wits’ midfielder Erwin Isaacs volleyed home in the 89th minute.
- 14 September 2012 – Moroka Swallows 2-3 University of Pretoria; Maritzburg United 1-1 Free State Stars
- 15 September 2012 – SuperSport United 3-0 AmaZulu; Platinum Stars 0-1 Orlando Pirates; Golden Arrows 1-0 Mamelodi Sundowns
- 16 September 2012 – Bloemfontein Celtic 2-1 Ajax Cape Town; Chippa United 1-1 Wits University
Dan Rawley Twitter @EFCTUFC1995