Best game for United against Ajax

2009-01-18 00:00

MARITZBURG United bounced back from their poor form, and in a big way, with a 2-0 victory over Premier Soccer League leaders Ajax Cape Town at Woodburn Stadium on Saturday.

After going 11 matches with just one victory, United produced their best performance of the season to shock probably the strongest team in the country. The PMB team played with heart and ran their legs off.

Ajax had dangerman Mabhudi Khenyeza sent off in the 64th minute for a second bookable offence, but Maritzburg were already on top by that stage.

Defender Gary Goldstone pulled one out for under-pressure United coach Gordon Igesund with a rasping 40-metre candidate for goal of the season that beat Andre Petim all ends up and set the tone in the 13th minute.

United’s second was another gem and came with ten-man Ajax’s defence at sea in the 90th minute, on-form left-wing Tony Tsabedze curling his shot past Petim.

United bounced back from the doldrums in emphatic fashion. The broad grins on the faces of their supporters were refreshing. Igesund paid tribute to a crowd who were as impressive in their spirit off the field as United were on it.

“The crowd were magnificent,” the coach said. “To be honest, we weren’t sure what reception we would get, but from the first whistle the crowd were behind us and that is what makes Maritzburg so special.”

United’s cosmopolitan supporter base has been commented on by football writers. In a largely divided city, Harry Gwala Stadium, and now Woodburn, during a PSL match are among the few places where people from all race groups gather to cheer on a common cause.

That is why Maritzburg United is important to the city. Some of the newer United players might not have been aware just how important, but they will be now.

Willed on by this support, United were simply inspired. The PMB team had a convincing early penalty appeal turned down when Peter Petersen was booked for diving. Lynch Pule’s header struck the upright in the first half, and Sipho Mngomezulu blasted over from five metres after the flag stayed down.

In the second half Fadlu Davids also struck his first-time shot over the bar after a superb build-up.

Constructive play from the back was a feature of United’s victory, which was not just blood, guts and trench warfare, but exciting too.

Ajax had their chances, but these were largely snuffed out by a gigantic performance by captain Bageta Dikilu in central defence, assisted by Goldstone, with another gutsy display from Tashreeq Goldman between the posts.

Even more exciting for United was that, for the first time in the PSL, the team fielded a product of their youth system in 16-year-old youngster from Edendale Jabulani “JB” Ncubeni, and the 54th-minute substitute toyed with experienced Ajax left-back Brett Evans, and almost set up a goal for Tsabedze.

“This was a huge game for us —we didn’t just turn the corner against anybody, we turned it against the leaders,” Igesund said.

United play second-placed Supersport United at Woodburn on Wednesday. The defending champions were shocked 4-1 by Free State Stars at Goble Park on Saturday.

“Supersport are different to Ajax,” Igesund said. “Gavin Hunt likes to hit his strikers and then pick up the pieces rather than building from the back. What many people don’t realise is how physical Supersport are, and that is why they are so dangerous from set pieces.”

• United are appealing for fans to come in their numbers to Wednesday’s game, and students in school uniforms will be allowed in free.

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