A miserable day for United

2010-11-22 00:00

THE Premier Soccer League might have it’s dream final, but the league’s reputation has been tarnished in the process following Orlando Pirates’ ill-tempered 3-0 Telkom Knockout semi-final defeat of Maritzburg United at Chatsworth Stadium yesterday.

Pirates will meet arch-rivals Kaizer Chiefs, extra-time winners over Santos on Saturday night, in the final at Soccer City on December 4.

This dream final, though, has a hollow ring to it given that it is the fifth Soweto Derby already this season, which is not even at the halfway stage.

And the manner in which it was arrived at has left a sour taste in the mouth.

For a small but competitive team like Maritzburg it’s tough enough to play Pirates on a level playing field. But when the odds are stacked against you by the PSL removing home-ground advantage then it’s even tougher.

The refereeing decisions that went against United might have been discouraged had the match been staged at Harry Gwala Stadium in front of a 50/50 crowd. United admirably put on 40 buses to yesterday’s game, but even then any grumblings by the “home” fans against the one-sided officiating were easily drowned out by an 80% Pirates crowd.

When you have United players rubbing their hands together in the signal meaning: “the game was bought”, as they were following the 83rd dismissal of Maritzburg substitute Felix Obada, and flying into challenges out of sheer frustration, it’s not a good advert for the league, the sponsors or the competition.

Obada was the second member of United’s complement sent off after coach Ernst Middendorp was red-carded by referee Daniel Bennett in the 43rd minute for over-remonstrating and stepping on to the field of play.

Pirates deserved their victory. They easily outplayed United. They pressed a team known themselves for pressing. They fought harder in 50/50s against a side known for it’s fight.

But the odds appeared so stacked in favour of the Buccaneers it seems a somewhat hollow domination.

United went on the attack in the first 16 minutes, threatening to carve Bucs up.

Early shots from Diyo Sibisi and John Arwuah were well held by Bucs goalkeeer Moeneeb Josephs.

Pirates always looked dangerous with the ball at feet streaming forward, as Clifford Ngobeni’s attempted shot almost fell for danger man Ezenwa Otorogu.

Arwuah’s half-volley in the area took a deflection for a corner in the 16th minute.

Three minutes later Pirates opened the scoring against the run of play.

From a throw-in from the left Thulasizwe Mbuyane played the ball across goal, with Otorogu wrestling a touch to Dikgang Mabalane at the far post, who swept in the opener.

The goal took the steam out of United’s attack.

In a period that saw Maritzburg players being booked for diving, shots from range from both sides, and challenges going in frantically, Bucs profited from the chaos with a 43rd-minute second goal.

With Middendorp losing his cool on the sidelines after Otorogu went down in the area but Bennett waving play-on, Bucs capitalised on a lack of concentration by United to work the ball free to Mabalane on the right. The winger’s cross was perfect for Otorogu to head past Shu-aib Walters.

Middendorp, warned previously by Bennett, was sent off.

Despite dominating possession, the Pietermaritzburg team only managed half-chances to get back into the game in the second half, as Pirates shut the game down.

Defender Mor Diouf’s free-kicks were struck with power, and not too far off.

At the other end, Daine Klate’s shot from a narrow angle flew into the side-netting and Tlou Segolela’s header was straight at Walters.

The match went from simmering to boiling point when Obada was unfortunate to be sent off in the 83rd minute when his trailing elbow connected Ngobeni in the face.

Almost inevitably, an own goal by Diouf in the 87th completed a miserable afternoon for United.

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