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Into their maiden final

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Maritzburg United hammer Mamelodi Sundowns to progress to historic first for club

There we go: Lebohang Maboe (middle) of Maritzburg United celebrates goal with Bandile Shandu (left) and Deolin Mekoa during their Nedbank Cup semi-final clash against Mamelodi Sundowns yesterday. Picture: BackpagePix

Maritzburg United (1) 3

Lebohang Maboe (43), Mxolisi Kunene (85), Fortune Makaringe (90)

Mamelodi Sundowns (1) 1

Gaston Sirino (2)

MARITZBURG United made history yesterday afternoon by securing their first appearance in a cup final when they came from behind to thrash visitors Mamelodi Sundowns 3-1 in their semi-final clash of the Nedbank Cup.

The Team of Choice ended Sundowns’ 15-game unbeaten run and they will now go on to meet Free State Stars, who dispatched a woeful Kaizer Chiefs on Saturday, in the final of the lucrative Cup competition in Cape Town on May 19.

It’s a big deal for the team from KZN, AmaZulu were the last team from KwaZulu-Natal to reach the final of this competition back in 2010, but they were demolished 3-0 by Bidvest Wits.

History to undo

No wonder then that Maritzburg are looking to become the first team from KZN to go all the way and win the coveted Cup. They have a lot of history to undo, with AmaZulu, African Warriors and Manning Rangers all reaching the final in the past but having to settle for silver on the day.

Lamontville Golden Arrows were the last side to bring joy to the people of KZN when they humiliated Ajax 6-0 in the final of the MTN 8 way back in 2009 at Orlando Stadium.

United will be eager to rekindle that joy for their province in next month’s final.

Yesterday Sundowns came into the game full of confidence and apparently in top form; in fact it seemed like nothing was going to stop them bulldozing Maritzburg when they scored within two minutes from kick-off via a Gaston Sirino goal – his first on South African shores.

But United had other ideas as they not only cancelled the goal just before half-time, but roared to an impressive victory adding two more strikes before the game ended.

They are now one game away from pocketing the R7 million prize money and also lining up in the CAF Confederation Cup next season.

There was a festive atmosphere at Harry Gwala Stadium.

The venue was packed to capacity with the yellow nation singing as always. With their supporters well and truly behind them Sundowns looked dangerous whenever they were on the final third of the park.

Themba Zwane fluffed a glorious opportunity to increase his side’s first-half lead as he ballooned his shot over the bar, this after earlier drama when a save by United keeper Richard Ofori denied Sibusiso Vilakazi a goal.

It was just minutes after Zwane’s miss that Lebohang Maboe levelled matters for the Team of Choice after a good one-two with Fortune Makaringe.

United did well to keep the mercurial Percy Tau quiet during the duration of the game causing him to become frustrated and begin taking searching shots from distance.

Sirino was denied his brace by Ofori at the 69-minute mark, the Ghanaian making a fantastic diving save to keep his side in the game.

It was around this time that things began to fall apart for the Brazillians; Sirino received two cautions in the space of two minutes and was subsequently sent for an early shower.

The Uruguayian will, as a result, miss the team’s next two matches – the first against Maritzburg on Wednesday in the league and their Premiership clash against Ajax Cape Town on Saturday.

With Sundowns in disarray following the sending-off, Mxolisi Kunene came on as substitute and netted the go-ahead goal for United five minutes from the end, and it was Makaringe who put the icing on the cake with a well-taken goal at the 90-minute mark.

After this unexpected disappointment Sundowns will now, no doubt, shift their focus to wrapping up the league title.