An outing to forget for United

2013-04-08 00:00

IN a poor advertisement for PSL football, Maritzburg United and Bloemfontein Celtic drew 1-1 in a scrappy encounter yesterday.

The first half saw little in the way of chances for either side. With the pitch at Free State Rugby Stadium in poor shape after Saturday night’s Super Rugby affair between the Cheetahs and the Stormers, both sides found it difficult to retain position with carpet football.

United coach Ernst Middendorp had brought central midfielder Michael Morton back into his starting lineup, while Mohamed Awal [hamstring] and David Booysen [suspension] both missed out.

Celtic probably edged the first period, but it was United who went into the break 1-0 up.

Delron Buckley tried his luck from distance on his less-favoured right boot in the 37th minute and his well-struck effort was spectacularly saved by Celtic shot stopper Patrick Tignyemb, who acrobatically tipped the ball over the bar. But from the resulting corner, Tignyemb was all at sea as he failed to claim a whipped in ball from Dillon Sheppard.

The ball was then loose in a dangerous area and the first to react was United centre back Byrone Hendricks, who unconvincingly steered the ball home from a short distance to give his side the lead.

Before that, Celtic had the upper hand but failed to capitalise on the few good chances they had.

Shu-Aib Walters in the United goal — while always under pressure thanks to some questionable defending — was not forced into making any saves of substance and United did just about enough to preserve their lead as the half drew to a close.

Middendorp would not have been comforted by his side’s half-time lead, and would have had some stern words after what was a lacklustre display after 45 minutes.

But whatever Middendorp had to say at half-time barely had time to sink in before Mduduzi Nyanda had levelled matters just 28 seconds into the second half — the United defence caught napping as he poked in an effort from the edge of the area.

Zimbabwean striker Cuthbert Malajila then had a good chance to take the lead back for United, but his well-placed effort was saved by Tignyemb low and to his left on 51 minutes.

At the end of the match, Middendorp would have been the happier of the two managers as the hosts piled on the pressure after their equaliser. Had it not been for some breathtakingly poor finishing, Celtic would surely have secured all three points.

But when Middendorp brought on Terrance Mandaza, there was almost a winner for United as the game opened up in the latter stages.

But the Zimbabwean, who has just started to get on the good side of United supporters following a string of impressive performances, couldn’t capitalise and his shot was hit straight at Tignyemb.

The result means that the race for top eight finished just as tight as it was.

United move up to fifth on the PSL table, but remain just two points clear of Celtic all the way down in 10th place.

The focus will shift away from the league next weekend when United host SuperSport United at Harry Gwala stadium on Saturday in a Nedbank Cup quarter-final clash.

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