Mamelodi Sundowns 0-1 Maritzburg United: Rusike delivers vicious knockout punch
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Mamelodi Sundowns 0-1 Maritzburg United: Rusike delivers vicious knockout punch

Maritzburg United were too hot to handle for Mamelodi Sundowns in Sunday’s MTN8 quarter-final clash at the Lucas Moripe Stadium.

Evans Rusike’s solitary strike toward the hour-mark separated the two teams at the end of 90 minutes, asFadlu Davids’ men booked their place in the semi-finals.

Following a spirited first half performance, the visitors looked very much in the driver’s seat, and although they failed to bury any of the goalscoring chances created, they were hardly threaten by Sundowns, who only came to party in the final five minutes of the first period.

No one expected Maritzburg to be at their best as two of their best players from last season in Brian Onyango and Kwanda Mngonyama were missing for the encounter.

However, Davids fielded his strongest possible line-up, including Rusike and Lebohang Maboe upfront, with new signing Siyanda Xulu settling for a place on the bench.

Pitso Mosimane opted for the tried and tested, but the absence of Denis Onyango due to illness forced him to draft Kenney Mweene into the starting line-up.

Oupa Manyisa and George Lebese started on the bench, but they were later in the game introduced to try and wrestle the match away from Maritzburg United.

Mosimane was very cautious in his approach as he knew that his players were far off in terms of fitness, but that should not be used as an excuse given the quality and depth at his disposal.

With only a few shots at goal in the first half, neither side was able to break the deadlock heading into the half-time break, but Khama Billiat should have done better in the latter stages of the first 45 minutes as he shot straight at Bongani Mpandle.

As  expected, the momentum was with the home side at the start of the second half, but a 58th minute strike by Rusike silenced a nearly packed crowed in Attridgeville.

Sundowns attacked with anger after conceding that goal, but they looked disjointed in midfield as Maritzburg United frustrated them by putting more numbers behind the ball.

The only time they came close to scoring was when Thabo Nthethe’s headed effort hit the upright from inside the box.

Mpandle was at his best throughout the game, as he kept his side’s lead intact with a series of superb saves, including an acrobatic save to deny Hlompho Kekana from a free-kick in the 88th minute.

Anthony Laffor squandered a golden opportunity a few seconds later. The lanky attacker ballooned his shot over the crossbar from inside the area despite acres of space in front of him.

Sundowns become the second biggest team to crash out in the quarter-final stages following Kaizer Chiefs’ 1-0 defeat to SuperSport United on Saturday night.