Golden Arrows opened their DStv Premiership campaign with a 2-1 win over KwaZulu-Natal rivals Maritzburg United in a thrilling derby played at Princess Magogo Stadium in KwaMashu, Durban, on Saturday afternoon.
The end-to-end action was relentless between Abafana Bes’thende and the Team of Choice, though it was the hosts who won out thanks to second-half strikes from Siboniso Conco and Siphamandla Sabelo.
The first chance of the game went the way of Maritzburg, with a long throw-in from Phumlani Ntshangase resulting in a shooting chance for Alfred Ndengane, but the defender blazed his effort over the crossbar in the third minute.
The Team of Choice looked dangerous throughout the first half hour, using the speed and directness of their counter attacks to stretch Arrows’ defence.
The hosts needed Sifiso Mlungwana to make a fine save from Zukile Kewuti on 16 minutes, before a follow-up effort from Travis Graham was cleared off the goal line by Nkosinathi Sibisi.
Three minutes later United striker Richard Zumah almost netted a first goal for his new club, latching onto a knock-down at a corner kick from Clayton Daniels to fire an effort on target, but Mlungwana tipped it over the crossbar.
By the 30-minute mark Abafana Bes’thende had found their rhythm and were forcing Maritzburg onto the back foot, putting together some fine passing movements and attacking thrusts.
Nduduzo Sibiya notably shot just wide in the 37th minute after great work by Lindokuhle Mtshali to create the chance.
Yet the visitors remained dangerous on the counter and struck the woodwork in the 40th minute, with Daylon Claasen seeing his effort cannon back off the post after being teed up by Bongokuhle Hlongwane.
The teams were level at 0-0 heading into the break.
Arrows made a couple of changes at the start of the second half, introducing Siboniso Conco and Thabani Zuke off the bench, while United swapped out Zumah in attack to bring on fellow new signing Brandon Theron.
Arrows sub Conco soon broke the deadlock, running onto a great through ball from Mtshali before shooting into an unguarded net from a tight angle in the 55th minute, with United goalkeeper Marcel Engelhardt having come somewhat off his line in anticipation of a cross rather than a shot.
Midway through the second half Abafana Bes’thende doubled their lead, with another substitute, Siphamandla Sabelo, scoring with a fine shot direct from a free kick which beat Engelhardt’s left-hand. The set piece was awarded right on the edge of the box after a foul on Velemseni Ndwandwe.
Arrows’ two goals did not deter Maritzburg from continuing to launch dangerous attacks of their own, with Mlungwana a busy man between the hosts’ posts.
The Team of Choice duly pulled a goal back on 87 minutes through Theron, who showed great composure in the box to strike a low finish past the ‘keeper and set up a thrilling finale.
However, Maritzburg could not complete a recovery from two goals down, allowing Arrows to open the season with a three-point haul on home soil in Durban.
The teams will return to DStv Premiership action this coming midweek, with Arrows away to SuperSport United and Maritzburg at home to Sekhukhune United, both on Wednesday, 25 August.
Golden Arrows (0) 2 (Conco 55’, Sabelo 68’)
Maritzburg United (0) 1 (Theron 87’)
ARROWS: Mlungwana, M. Dube, Mathiane, Sibisi, N. Dlamini (Zuke 46’), S. Cele, Ndwandwe, Mtshali (Sabelo 61’), Sibiya (Conco 46’), Mmodi (Mantshiyane 90+3’), M. Gumede (Mutizwa 73’)
MARITZBURG: Engelhardt, Ndengane, Daniels, Ismail (Hachi 78’), Ntshangase, Kewuti, Graham, Claasen (Hlongwane 62’), B. Hlongwane, Human (Skelem 62’), Zumah (Theron 46’)
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