It’s David v Goliath

Pitso Mosimane will be guiding Mamelodi Sundowns in their third Telkom Cup final.
AT THE HELM: Pitso Mosimane will be guiding Mamelodi Sundowns in their third Telkom Cup final.
Image: GALLO

Mamelodi Sundowns and Maritzburg United will battle for the honour of being crowned 2019 Telkom Knockout champions when they meet at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban on Saturday.  (Kickoff at 6pm).

Sundowns have so far overcome AmaZulu (5-0 at home), Chippa United (2-2 draw away, 4-3 winners on penalties) and Golden Arrows (2-1 away) en route to the TKO final.

The Brazilians are three-time champions in the Telkom Knockout, with their most recent triumph arriving in 2015.

In 2018 they suffered a surprise defeat in the quarterfinals at the hands of eventual competition winners Baroka FC.

Maritzburg, meanwhile, will be appearing in their first TKO final.

The Team of Choice’s path to this point has seen them beat both Bidvest Wits and Highlands Park on penalties (after 1-1 home draws against each team) before ousting “Cup Kings” Kaizer Chiefs 2-1 in the semifinals, thanks to a brace from Judas Moseamedi.

Both teams come into the match in winning form.

Sundowns were in action just this midweek, claiming a come-from-behind 3-1 win over Stellenbosch in a league clash on December 11, with goals from Themba Zwane, Sphelele Mkhulise and Keletso Makgalwa.

Maritzburg, meanwhile, will have the advantage of three extra days of rest and preparation leading into the final.

Eric Tinkler has defied the odds by taking Maritzburg United to the Telkom Cup final.
Eric Tinkler has defied the odds by taking Maritzburg United to the Telkom Cup final.

Their last outing brought a 1-0 away win at Polokwane City in a league clash on December 8, with Yusuf Jappie scoring the decisive goal for the KwaZulu-Natal outfit.

In head-to-head stats, Sundowns and Maritzburg have met in five previous cup meetings.

The Team of Choice have claimed three outright wins compared with two for the Brazilians.

The KwaZulu-Natal club were victorious when the teams last met in a knockout match, the semifinals of the 2018 Nedbank Cup, as they claimed a 3-1 triumph.

Overall, the teams have met in 32 league and cup matches since 2005-06 and Downs have dominated the rivalry, claiming 20 wins compared with six for United.

The Brazilians were on the winning side when the teams last met, in an Absa Premiership clash at Lucas Moripe Stadium back in September, with goals from Gaston Sirino and Lyle Lakay for the hosts, while the visitors struck through Siyanda Xulu.

Meanwhile, Maritzburg coach Eric Tinkler says his side had achieved nothing yet as they prepared for the final.

Maritzburg have been rock solid in reaching the decider, as they were when they appeared in their first ever knockout final against Free State Stars in the 2018 Nedbank Cup, but ended up losing 1-0.

Tinkler, who won the Telkom trophy with Cape Town City in 2016, says they cannot get ahead of themselves and need to do the job against Sundowns.

“We can’t celebrate anything. You’ve got to first do that. We’ve got absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain. To win a cup competition and then finish the year in the top eight would be great,” Tinkler told reporters, adding he is also looking ahead to a final Absa Premiership match of the year against Chiefs on December 22.

“We’ve got the final and then Chiefs at home, massive and hard games. Probably no-one gives us a chance against either team.”

Maritzburg were embroiled in a relegation battle last season that Tinkler just about saved them from, but this year look a much more solid unit, even if there is the feeling they have perhaps not fired on all cylinders yet.

“You’ve got to remember that we have made a lot of changes to the team,” he said. “There are a lot of new faces that we brought in. That’s probably the most important element, we have a lot more depth in our squad.

“It was always going to be difficult after losing [Siphelele] Ndlovu and [Fortune] Makaringe [to Orlando Pirates]. I wouldn’t say that we have replaced them, but we have found other players who bring us something different. The players have responded very, very well.”—