Pietermaritzburg - Maritzburg United and Moroka Swallows drew 1-1 in their Absa Premiership match at Woodburn Stadium in Pietermaritzburg on Sunday afternoon.
United's industrious Bagetta Dikilu netted a penalty in the 63rd after Kurt Lentjies was brought down heavily just inside the 18-yard are by Thato Ferland, and 25 minutes later David Radebe, on for Shaun Haschick, equalised from the rebound after home keeper Shu-Aib Walters had tipped a Lefa Tsutsulupa screamer onto the post.
United and Swallows went into half time goalless. The Team of Choice enjoyed two great chances while Swallows' Siyabonga Nomvete could have made more of his opportunities.
United had two wonderful opportunities in the last five minutes of the half when a Rudolf Bester cross from the right wing in the 42nd was hooked back to skipper Fadlu Davids by Mario Booysen, but Swallows goalkeeper Greg Etafia could breathe again after the diminutive striker's shot cannoned into the crossbar and stayed out.
Then it was Musa Nyatama's turn as his effort from the edge of the area saw Etafia make a great save, diving full-length to his right and gathering the goal bound shot with the tips of his fingers.
United had a shaky period midway through the first half and the Birds could have gone in front, but Nomvete got such a fright, it seemed, when shaky Walters mis-kicked that all he could do was stab the ball wide of the near post with the goalkeeper stranded.
The game caught alight after the break and 13 minutes into the half Lungisani Ndlela's effort was smothered by Walters who did well to come off his line.
The skilful Kurt Lentjies was heavily brought down by Thato Ferland five minutes later and referee Charl Bester awarded a penalty after consulting with his assistant. Bagetta Dikilu sent Etafia the wrong way and United were 1-0 to the good.
Play stretched markedly and the loose nature of the game ensured chances aplenty. In the 68th substitute Bryce Aka, on for Davids, hardly had a moment to settle down before he connected at full stretch from point-blank range but his effort flashed wide of the post.
Booysen headed just wide of the post from a Lentjies free kick 11 minutes from time before the same Lentjies chose to pass instead of having a go himself a few plays later.
United appeared to have done everything necessary to make the game safe but the Birds were not ready to accept defeat and with two minutes left a Tsutsulupa screamer from 25 metres smashed into the post after Walters got his fingertips to it, only for substitute striker David Radebe to bury the rebound with ease for a 1-1 final score line.
Going into the match, Swallows were in 11th place, on 26 points with a goal difference of -10 after 22 matches. And in a clash that couldn't have seen two sides much closer on the log table, United were in 12th spot with 26 points after 23 clashes and a GD of -11.
United went in full of confidence under coach Ernst Middendorp, whose reign since the demise of Gordon Igesund has seen the players praise him with more fervour game by game.
Middendorp's ability to build the players' confidence through the encouragement in expressing their flair has paid dividends as in his seven matches in charge United have won three.
The last three outings have brought two wins – away to Bloemfontein Celtic and home to Ajax Cape Town – and a narrow defeat by championship contenders Mamelodi Sundowns in Tshwane.
Swallows were still smarting from their 4-0 demolition at the hands of AmaZulu, and while it is too soon to get despondent, there is no doubt that their form has been mediocre and a tonic via an inspiring performance from captain Lefa Tsutsulupa was just what the doctor ordered.
Moroka Swallows (0) 1 Radebe 88')
Maritzburg (0) 1 (Dikilu 63')
Maritzburg (4-4-2): Walters; Booysen, Petersen, Dikilu, Ngwepe; Obada (Ncubeni 68'), Bester, Nyatama, Madondo; Davids (Aka 56'), Lentjies
Swallows (4-3-3): Etafia; Ferland, Cichon, Hendricks, Kobola; Tsutsulupa, Mphahlele, Shivambu; Haschick (Radebe 66'), Ndlela (Leonard 77'), Nomvete