Diouf heroic in United’s defence

2011-12-05 00:00

THERE is both good and bad news for Maritzburg United fans after the team drew 0-0 with AmaZulu in a PSL clash at the Moses Mabhida Stadium yesterday.

The good news is that yesterday was only the second time in six league matches that United have avoided defeat. The bad news is that coach Ian Palmer’s men have now played 364 minutes of PSL football without scoring a goal — their last coming on October 28 away at Santos courtesy of a Diyo Sibisi header.

Sibisi, unavailable yesterday as he recovers from an ankle injury, was replaced by club captain Fadlu Davids up front in a move that did little to reignite United’s ability to score. In truth, yesterday’s was a forgettable game and the first half saw little goalmouth action to speak of. There was seldom enough space in a cluttered midfield to spark any enterprising play.

In the early exchanges, United appeared a far more compact side than the one that went down 2-0 to Free State Stars on Wednesday night and they kept the ball with relative ease. The visitors were first to threaten when Senegalese defender Mor Diouf got his head to a Felix Obada corner, but he failed to control his effort and the ball disappeared over the bar. A quarter of an hour in and Sheldon Lawrence, who was given a start on United’s left hand side of midfield, saw a placed effort hit straight at AmaZulu keeper Tapuwa Kapini.

But as the half grew longer the hosts began to look like the more capable side, and in the 27th minute striker Goodman Dlamini had a powerful shot heroically blocked by a sliding Diouf. The second half produced much of the same with very little separating the sides until the 56th minute, when Obada was the recipient of a breathtaking ball from Diouf. With space and time at his disposal, Obada hurried his left-footed effort and sprayed it wide and to the left of goal.

A minute later Kurt Lentjies replaced Lawrence in United’s midfield. The move proved to be a good one, as Lentjies came closest to breaking the deadlock.

After enduring a dangerous series of AmaZulu attacks where it appeared that United would struggle to hold on to their clean sheet, the visitors finished the game the stronger of the teams.

In the 83rd minute United left back Thabang Matuka floated in a ball behind the Usuthu defence that Lentjies appeared to reach, but the substitute was unable to get a shot away as he failed to control the ball.

Seconds later and Lentjies was in the thick of it once more. Midfield workhorse Michael Morton broke down the right flank before squaring an inch-perfect ball to Lentjies at the top of the box.

The modest sized crowd at the Moses held their breath as Lentjies’s rocketed effort was acrobatically tipped over the bar by Kapini. Palmer would have wondered what more his charges needed to do to end their goal drought when, from the resulting corner, Diouf’s perfectly timed bicycle kick cannoned against the crossbar and was deflected out of play.

The result leaves United in 11th place on the PSL table with 15 points after 13 rounds of fixtures. They next face bottom of the log Jomo Cosmos in Pietermaritzburg on December 17 in what will be considered a must-win affair for Palmer’s blue and white army.

• sport@witness.co.za

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