Maritzburg United v Free State Stars Preview

Nedbank Cup final preview

The defining moment for both teams’ season is here! Mariztburg United have achieved their largest points tally in a single season, scored their most number of goals and finished higher on the table than they ever did. Winning the Nedbank Cup would make a good season great. On the other hand, Luc Eymael has turned Free State Stars from relegation candidates into a competitive side. Ea Lla Koto finished two spots below Maritzburg United in the league with four points being the difference. The entrancing narratives collide on a neutral venue which is Cape Town Stadium. Who will reign supreme?

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Nedbank Cup Final 
Saturday 19 May 
Cape Town Stadium 
19:00

To Win (90 mins)
Maritzburg United 15/10
Draw 21/10
Free State Stars 18/10

To Lift Cup
Maritzburg United 17/20
Free State Stars 19/20

Maritzburg United

Fadlu Davids’s men have been very superb this season, finishing fourth on the log, which is their highest ever finish. This is their first ever cup final and winning it would cap off a splendid campaign for the Team of Choice. To reach this stage of the competition, they came back from a goal down to beat the PSL champions, Mamelodi Sundowns, 3-1 in a thrill-packed semi-final which I witnessed live at the Harry Gwala Stadium.

The team is already in Cape Town to acclimatise and garner support ahead of the spectacle. They’ve been strategic to use their Capetonians like Bevan Fransman and coach Davids, who are visiting various shopping centres and radio stations.

The midfield combination of Fortune Makaringe, Lebohang Maboe and the much-hyped Siphesihle Ndlovu has caused problems for many teams in the PSL. Siyanda Xulu and Fransman have marshalled the defence nicely with Pogiso Senoka and Rushine De Reuck contributing both offensively and defensively in fullback positions. Ea Lla Koto will have a long day ta the office against these talented players.

Maritzburg’s recent form in the league, however, hasn’t been great as they’ve won one of their last five matches, losing one and drawing the other three. Hopefully, their cup form carries them through in the Mother City.

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Free State Stars

No one expected Free State Stars to finish in the top eight, let alone reaching a cup final, but the management snapped up Luc Eymael who’s a well-known tactician and that changed the whole situation. They last won a trophy in 1994 when they lifted the Coca-Cola Cup and they were still known as Qwa Qwa Stars. This season, they finished sixth on the log and had it not been for their poor recent form, they’d have finished higher. Ea La Koto are winless in their last five league games with a record of three draws and two defeats.

However, in the Nedbank Cup, they’ve excelled as they’ve recently beaten Kazier Chiefs at Moses Mabhida Stadium to reach this stage of the competition in a match that was marred by crown violence. That is another match I attended, and I must say, I was very impressed with their tactics.

On his day, Thela Ngobeni can be a solid brick wall between the sticks with the assistance of experienced Rooi Mahamutsa in front of him. The match-up up front between Andrea Fileccia and Patrick Phungwayo will be an interesting one as the latter is known for overlapping, while the Belgian striker is known for drifting wide on the right to exploit space behind the left back.

Probable line-ups:

Maritzburg United: 3-4-2-1
Ofori; Fransman, De Reuck, Xulu; Senoka, Shandu, Ndlovu, Makaringe; Maboe, Mekoa; Fileccia.

Free State Stars: 4-4-2
Ngobeni; Mobbie, Keita, Mahamutsa, Phungwayo; Jantjie, Masehe, Vilakazi, Dlamini; Tchilimbou, Mthembu

Prediction: Maritzburg United (15/10)

With the talent that coach Mosimane has in his ranks, as well as the players’ mindsets, knowing that every game is as important as the last, shows that we are witnessing a great, great team. The flair and trickery between both clubs will make this an exciting affair, but my money is on Sundowns. With Tau, Sibusiso Vilakazi and Gaston Sirino in superb form building up to the match, 13/10 seems a decent price for the soon-to-be South African champions.

Written by  Benedict Ngwenya

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