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Royal AM coach John Maduka praises his team for their fighting spirit

Tiisetso Malepa Sports reporter
Royal AM coach John Maduka was happy with a point against Marumo Gallants.
Royal AM coach John Maduka was happy with a point against Marumo Gallants.
Image: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix/Gallo Images

Royal AM are growing in confidence and proving to be one of the Premiership’s surprise packages this season after they snatched victory from the jaws of defeat against a visiting SuperSport United to consolidate their place in the top five.

Thamsanqa Gabuza put United ahead after half an hour at Chatsworth Stadium in Durban and the three-time champions led until referee's optional time when Zukile Mkhize and substitute Menzi Masuku scored two goals in two minutes to knock the wind out of the visitors' sails.

After nine matches, Royal are third on the DStv Premiership standings with 17 points, two behind joint leaders Mamelodi Sundowns and second-placed Stellenbosch.

Defending champions Sundowns, who have played two matches less, host Maritzburg United at Loftus on Wednesday evening.

Coach John Maduka praised his team for their resilience and said he drills into his players a mentality that it is not over until the final whistle.

“Good game at the end but the way we started was not good,” said the 51-year-old former tough as nails midfielder.

“Overall performance, it was bad in the first half, we did not play our game, but in the second half it was a very much improved performance and that is why we managed to get a win.

“We started very slow and lost possession where we were not supposed to, and we gave away possession so cheaply and again our decision making was not right, especially when we were in possession of the ball.

“We started well defensively but we were not functioning going forward.

“We were not patient enough to wait for the right moment to be able to punish our opponent.

“Second half, after we spoke, we said no, let us be patient and play our game and the goals will come.”

The scales tipped in Royal’s favour early in the second half when United combative utility defender Luke Fleurs received two yellow cards in quick succession to leave the visitors a man down.

“The second half saw a very much improved performance and we did well even before they got the red card, you could see that we were taking the game to them and created so many problems for them in the final third,” said Maduka, who has won five, drawn two and lost two of his opening nine Premiership matches.

“After the red card we created so many chances and we had to introduce more creative players to go forward because at that time we were 1-0 down. We had nothing to lose and wanted to take the game to the opponents.”

With United a man down Maduka threw numbers forward and introduced experienced attackers Menzi Masuku and Ndumiso Mabena, who caused distraction in the opponent’s box.

“We knew that they would park the bus and try to stop us penetrating them and it worked for us after introducing those players (Masuku and Mabena) ... they came at the right time and we managed to take the game to them. We created a couple of chances but unfortunately they did not go in.

“But we did not stop there because we are a team that believes that we can only lose a match after the final whistle."

Maduka’s Royal will be at home again in their next match against Baroka on Sunday.