A game to forget for United

2013-02-16 00:00

IT was a performance to forget for an outclassed Maritzburg United as they slumped to a 3-0 defeat to Mamelodi Sundowns at the Nelson Mandela Bay stadium in Port Elizabeth last night.

United coach Ernst Middendorp had made three changes from the side that drew 0-0 with AmaZulu in their midweek clash.

Zimbabwean striker Cuthbert Malajila made his return to the side after injury, replacing countryman Terrance Mandaza.

Mohammed Awal returned at centre back after Africa Cup of Nations duty with Ghana in a move that saw Byrone Hendricks move to right back and Peter Petersen dropping out, while Ruben Cloete returned from suspension to take his place at left back ahead of Thabang Matuka.

Middendorp kept faith in Maritzburg College’s Bandile Shandu, and gave the midfielder more licence than he had on Tuesday night by playing in an advanced role just behind Malajila.

Playing in front of a healthy crowd that was mainly clad in yellow, the Team of Choice couldn’t have wished for a worse start.

Just four minutes into the game, Sundowns were 1-0 up after Katlego Mphela found himself one-on-one with United goalkeeper Shu-Aib Walters. The Bafana Bafana striker, now fully fit after Afcon, would have thought that his effort had been saved by a sprawled Walters, but the ball bounced off the shot stopper and looped into the net.

The goal deflated United, and a side that has been naturally defensive all season now needed to go in search of a goal.

It didn’t get any better for the home side either, and while the game got a little scrappy after the goal, it was always Downs who had more of the ball and all of the chances.

When Anthony Laffor skinned Cloete on 25 minutes and set up Mphela with a square ball, it seemed certain that the lead would be doubled, but somehow Mphela squandered his effort from no more than two metres out.

Cloete was then forced to leave the field after picking up a hamstring strain, and was replaced by Matuka.

As poor as United were in the first half, they would have a golden chance to level matters on the stroke of half time when an expertly delivered Delron Buckley ball from centre field set up Malajila, whose powerful effort from the edge of the area was hit straight at Downs goalkeeper Wayne Sandilands.

Shandu was withdrawn at half time for David Booysen — as was the case against AmaZulu — but the move was more puzzling this time considering Booysen’s defensive mindset and United’s deficit.

But United were better after the break, and provided the odd moment of encouragement that they might claw their way back into the match.

With 25 minutes remaining, though, United were caught with too many men forward. Hendricks got caught in possession and Teko Modise slid in Jabulani Shongwe, who blasted the ball past a helpless goalkeeper Walters to make it 2-0.

And if the contest wasn’t dead and buried before, it was when Nyasha Mushekwi tapped in from close range after a slip from Matuka that had left Walters alone with two attackers.

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