Maulers ambushed at Tembisa

Billy Cooper

Manning Rangers were ambushed at the Makhulong Stadium in Tembisa where Classic scored an against-the-run-of-play 1-0 win over the "Mighty Maulers" in their Rothmans Cup quarterfinal, first leg tie on Sunday. The coastal club were on top throughout but paid the penalty for failing to play to the whistle in the 78th minute when David Maletule headed home the only goal. The Rangers defence stood rooted, appealing for offside against Arthur Zwane who raced forward and laid on a superb cross which was well met by Maletule and sent the 5 000 home supporters home in a happy frame of mind.
But Classic coach John Zondo was the first to concede that taking a one goal advantage into the second leg at Chatsworth in two weeks time will be a tough assignment. Rangers impressed by their positive approach and will pose plenty of problems at Chatsworth for Classic.

"A goal lead is not enough. We needed to win by at least two or three goals. I changed tactics today in order to close Rangers down and stop them crossing the ball and kept my defence, tight which worked. But take nothing away from Rangers who are a very good side. Those last 10 minutes when they went in search of the equaliser were nerve wracking," said Zondo.

His Rangers counterpart Gordon Igesund shook his head in frustration.

"To say we were unlucky is an understatement. Classic had three shots at goal all afternoon. We played well on a bumpy pitch which did not help us. But this is no train smash and I'm very confident we will take them out at Chatsworth.

Rangers carried the game to Classic who seemed content to counter attack on a cold and wet afternoon. Zondo suggested his side should have been awarded a penalty when Rangers captain Mark Davies appeared to push striker Thato Maleka inside the area after 18 minutes. Referee Jeff Motsamai had a good game, keeping a firm grip but at the same time allowing play to flow in an incident-free 90 minutes.

Kerryn Jordan worked hard in attack for Rangers and was desperately unlucky not to equalise in the last two minutes with two good efforts. The first shot in the 88th minute went fractionally wide and less than a minute later Classic goalkeeper Isaac Nkondo pulled off the save of the match from Jordan's powerful header. Jordan was in the thick of the action and was a constant thorn in the side of the Classic defence. His half volley after 15 minutes tested Nkondo; four minutes later Jordan hit the side netting as Rangers piled forward; then he was wide with a header from Japhet Zwane's free kick in the 36th minute.

Classic rallied at the end of the first half and keeper Grant Johnson made two timely saves, the first bravely from Maleka and the second a minute from the interval was a superb reflex stop from a neatly hit shot from Tumelo Mofokeng. Rangers kept Classic under the whip in the second half and the match appeared to be heading for a draw until Maletule thudded home the winner 12 minutes from time.

Rangers had the Classic defence in all sorts of trouble when they went for broke looking for the equaliser. Nkondo pulled off a good save from Antonio Trigo in the 79th minute and a minute later Gilbert Mushangazhike watched in horror as his shot was miraculously cleared off the Classic goalline.

But although Jordan was unlucky with his two shots late in the game, it took another great save from Johnson to deny Maleka a second goal for Classic.