Dry spell for United

2014-12-15 00:00

IT seems like forever ago that Maritzburg United shocked Orlando Pirates 2-1 in Soweto. That game was played on December 2, and since then United have drawn two home matches against lesser opposition to come crashing back down to earth. The most recent was Friday’s 1-1 draw against AmaZulu at Harry Gwala Stadium, a result that came exactly a week after a goalless draw against Tuks at the same venue.

Both of those results have been hard to swallow for the Team of Choice, who have been playing some highly enterprising football under coach Steve Komphela this season. But as much as two home draws against sides in the bottom half of the table must sting, the positives remain for Maritzburg.

In both the Tuks and AmaZulu matches there were chances aplenty. Tuks was a little bit more evenly contested, but how Maritzburg failed to score in the final 10 minutes against Usuthu on Friday bordered on the supernatural.

After conceding a goal against 10 men, United suddenly found an extra gear as they went in search of a winner to add to Mondli Cele’s first half opener. The result was Abel Mabaso, Terrance Mandaza and Ashley Hartog — amongst others — all coming agonisingly close to winning it for the home side. Hartog’s header rattled the crossbar with minutes remaining, while Ama­Zulu goalkeeper Siya Mngoma pulled off a string of quite miraculous saves to deny a rampant Maritzburg in the closing stages.

But the hard truth for Maritzburg is that if they want to be considered one of the best in the country then these are the matches that they need to be winning.

“If you don’t get the result there is no way to sugar-coat it,” a frank Komphela said after Friday night’s clash.

“I think we tried everything possible to win the match, but just couldn’t get the ball in the back of the net for a second time. We had so many chances. There was a stage when the goalkeeper was literally on the ground, everybody was just kicking at him, but we still couldn’t score.”

Komphela also criticised centre back Mohammed Awal for the foul on AmaZulu’s Bafana Bafana striker Bongani Ndulula that led to the penalty.

“It was a schoolboy error, it was completely unnecessary,” said the coach.

It doesn’t get any easier for them, and the turnaround is quick once more with Mamelodi Sundowns in town tomorrow night for what will be United’s third consecutive home clash.

“Nothing will change, we will go again,” he said. “We started with a draw [1-1] away to them [Sundowns] at the start of the season and we are hoping to make amends and win at home.”

A boost for United is that their on-loan Sundowns trio of Kwanda Mngonyama, Abel Mabaso and Sibusiso Kumalo are allowed to play against their parent club. Kumalo is still recovering from a knee injury, but the availability of Mabaso and Mngonyama will be a major boost to Maritzburg’s chances of triumphing against the Brazilians.

That match kicks off at 8 pm and will be televised on SuperSport Four.

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