In a gutsy display, United fought back from a goal down at half time to equalise through Fadlu Davids in the 58th minute. The PMB team could have won the game had they put away their second-half chances.
United now need a victory in the return leg at Harry Gwala Stadium on Sunday to win the NFD and be promoted. A goalless draw will also suffice, because of the away goal rule.
Coach Ian Palmer said his team had been surprised by an attacking 4-3-3 formation employed by AK.
“They played with three strikers and we had to adapt defensively. Unfortunately, we took too long to adjust, and we conceded a goal against the run of play.
“But I think we rectified that in the second half and when we came back I think we were a much better team than them — it’s just that we didn’t use our chances.
“In the first half, we allowed them space in the midfield. The wide players never tucked in, so we tucked them in to eliminate the space.
“And, with those three strikers, we knew they would run out of steam sooner or later. We just rectified ourselves defensively, won the ball and played. That’s what we’re good at.”
Palmer said United will take an attacking approach in the return leg.
“We have to attack — we can’t sit back and defend to try to win on the away goals rule. We have to go on the attack and not concede any goals.”
FC AK midfielder Alois Bunjira, however, believes his team still has a great chance of qualifying for PSL next season.
Bunjira told KickOff.com that the drawn out bribery case against the club and owner, Azziz Kara, had taken its toll on their mental strength during their preparations for the play-offs, but quickly warned United that it was not over yet.
“There is still another 90 minutes of play and for us it will be a new game. We won most of our away league games last season and this gives us motivation that we will beat Maritzburg United on Sunday.”