Bucs will aim to maintain log lead

2011-03-02 00:00

FOURTEEN-MATCH unbeaten Premier Soccer League leaders Orlando Pirates will provide Maritzburg United with a stern test in tonight’s match at Orlando Stadium.

This will be Maritzburg’s third meeting against the Buccaneers this season and the PMB team have lost the last two.

In the ill-tempered Telkom Knockout semi-final in November, which had been controversially moved from Pietermaritzburg to Chatsworth, Pirates were 3-0 winners over a distracted United.

A week later at Harry Gwala Stadium Maritzburg lost 2-1 in a far more closely contested affair.

United managed their first win in seven matches against Santos on Friday night with a hard-working performance to break down the defensive Capetonians.

The victory only managed to preserve the third-last PMB side’s three-point gap over second-last Moroka Swallows, who beat Platinum Stars at Dobsonville Stadium on Sunday thanks to Bradley Ritson’s 90th-minute goal.

The fighting Birds will fancy their chances of another result tonight against a SuperSport United side who have gone from bad to worse in the second half of the season and were thrashed 5-0 away to Bloemfontein Celtic on Sunday.

So United, themselves, wouldn’t mind a result of some sort — even be it a draw — as the relegation battle heats up.

At the other end of the log Pirates managed to maintain their lead with Saturday’s 1-1 draw in the Soweto derby against now-third-placed Kaizer Chiefs, from which the Buccaneers emerged with by far the greater share of the plaudits.

Thulasizwe Mbuyane’s equaliser in the dying seconds epitomised the focus and determination the Bucs have displayed under coach Ruud Krol to put together an impressive unbeaten run.

With the three-way tussle for the league along with stylish Chiefs and young, technically gifted Ajax reaching a thrilling climax, Pirates would be greatly disappointed should they not manage the full three points from tonight’s encounter.

For the Buccaneers, Benson Mhlongo returned to a special training programme this week from the injury, though it is not yet certain how long it will be before he can play again.

Moeneeb Josephs will have an operation to his shoulder injury.

United coach Ernst Middendorp will have a better idea this week as to the extent of John Arwuah’s knee ligament injury, after his operation yesterday. Peter Petersen still has a knee injury that ruled the right-back out of their win over Santos.

Pirates’ consistency has been based on a stingy defence that has conceded the fewest goals in the league (14).

Maritzburg, with their gifted array of attackers, have the capability of breaking down Bucs’ excellent back four of Rueben Cloete, Rooi Mahamutsa, Lucky Lekgwathi and Happy Jele. The PMB team’s weakness in attack of late in away matches, though, has only been matched by their woeful finishing in more dominant performances at home.

If United can keep it tight at the back and click up-front, they can get something from tonight’s game. Realistically, though, it is in some winnable forthcoming home matches that the PMB team will aim to collect points to keep clear of the drop.

Also tonight, fourth-placed Mamelodi Sundowns meet last-placed Mpumalanga Black Aces needing a follow-up win from their 3-0 home defeat of Wits University on the weekend to remain in the title race. 

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