|Innocent Mkhabela © Backpagepix
Platinum Stars and Maritzburg United have played to a 1-1 draw in their Absa Premiership clash at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium on Wednesday night.
A point will probably suit both sides, keeping them five points above the relegation zone, and extends Stars’ unbeaten run to six matches in all competitions, a far cry from their troubles earlier in the campaign.
United took the lead through Kurt Lentjies midway through the first half, before Enocent Mkhabela equalized for Dikwena five minutes into the second stanza.
The visitors had an early free-kick chance from 30-yards that was struck sweetly by the big Senegalese defender Mor Diouf, but his effort sailed well over the bar.
United dominated the opening stages, with the home side sluggish out of the blocks and battling to get out of their own half.
Michael Morton was the first player into the referee’s book inside 10 minutes following a foul on the lively Sibusiso Msomi, leaving him walking a tight-rope for the remainder of the game.
After Joseph Molangoane had followed Morton into the book, the victors took the lead on 27 minutes. Some hesitant defending from the home side saw the loose ball fall to Lentjies and he rifled the ball into the back of the net.
Stars co-coaches Cavin Johnson and Allan Freese were forced into a change five minutes later when Phelelani Mpangase limped off injured to be replaced by Mbhuyiselo Sambu, his first appearance since the 4-3 home defeat to Orlando Pirates over a month ago.
And the former Dikwena skipper almost marked his return with a goal as he headed just over from a Thuso Phala corner six minutes before the break.
Tshepo Moloto received a booking that will rule him out of Stars’ Nedbank Cup second round clash with his former side Jomo Cosmos, which coupled with the injury to Mpangase could leave the team seriously short at the back.
Stars made another change at the break, bringing on Orlando Pirates loanee Patrick Malokase for Molangoane as they sought a way back into the match.
And they found equaliser just five minutes after the re-start. Mkhabela, who netted his first goal for the club earlier this month in the 1-0 win at Bloemfontein Celtic, converted Terrence Mandaza’s pass.
Mandaza blasted over soon afterwards from just outside the area, his last contribution to the game as he was then replaced by Morgan Shivambu. United took the opportunity to make a change of their own, bringing on striker Diyo Sibisi for Prince Olomu.
Chances were at a premium for the remainder of the game, with the visitors adding the pacey Felix Obada up front for the final 10 minutes as he replaced Cuthbert Malajila.
Neither side could find a winner and perhaps a draw was the right result on a night when neither team deserved to walk away with three points.
Platinum Stars (0) 1 (Mkhabela 51’)
Maritzburg United (1) 1 (Lentjies 27’)
Stars: Mabokgwane – Mere, Moloto, Mpangase (Sambu 32’), Ngwepe – Phala, Mkhabela, Ng’ambi, Molangoane (Malokase 46’), Msomi – Mandaza (Shivambu 66’)
Maritzburg United: Chansa – Petersen, Diouf, Hendricks, Evans – Lentjies, Madondo, Morton, Olomu (Sibisi 66’) – Matle (Booysen 87’), Malajila (Obada 81’)