Going head to head

2014-10-09 00:00

MARITZBURG UNITED

OVERVIEW

IT has been a largely encouraging start by Steve Komphela’s Team of Choice. As always, a top eight finish is United’s aim this campaign and early indications are they have a real shot at pulling it off. Komphela has been bold in assembling his squad and choosing his starting line-ups, giving a host of youngsters an opportunity to play at the highest level. United remain undefeated at home so far with two wins and a draw at Harry Gwala. New signings such as John Painstil, Kwanda Mngonyama, Abel Mabaso and Khumbulani Banda have made strong starts to the season.

It is a different looking United with a clear emphasis on youth. The intent to play attractive, free-flowing football has been clear and worked with varying amounts of success.

Maritzburg’s only two losses have come against title challengers Wits and Chiefs and the smaller clubs look like they will struggle to pick up points against Komphela.

The squad will get better as the season progresses and the players get to know each other — and there is no reason why Farouk Kadodia and company should not be eyeing the best finish in the club’s history.

POSITIVES

Komphela’s selection policy is the major positive. PSL rookies like Deolin Mekoa, Sheldon van Wyk, Mohau Mokate and Mondli Cele have all been thrown into the deep end and responded well. The faith shown in left back Thabang Matuka was a brave move by Komphela, but one that has paid dividends with the 24-year-old taking his opportunities up until now.

Another major plus is Mngonyama’s call up to the national side. The centre back has been a calming influence for Maritzburg since his arrival on loan from Sundowns and his aerial prowess on defence and attack makes him a constant threat at set pieces. Komphela has a reputation as a man-

manager and that impact can be seen in the attitudes of the players who are all booming with confidence and are afraid of nobody. The trick now is to ensure United do not go through an all-too-familiar mid-season meltdown when what is happening at the bottom of the table commands more attention than what is happening at the top.

NEGATIVES

In truth, Maritzburg’s start has been so encouraging there are not many negatives to speak of.

One that does stand out is perhaps the inability to turn dominance into points. Creating and finishing chances remains the biggest obstacle for Komphela. In a 0-0 draw at home to Aces in September, United played against 10 men for most of the second half. There were chances aplenty, but none were converted. Quality finishing is a problem that has long affected PSL clubs, but if Maritzburg are to kick on and secure a place in the top half of the table then it is an area where they will have to improve in the coming weeks.

UNITED’S PSL RESULTS IN 2014/15

Sundowns 1 – 1 Maritzburg

Maritzburg 2 – 1 Polokwane City

Wits 1 – 0 Maritzburg

Maritzburg 3 – 0 Chippa United

Free State Stars 1 – 1 Maritzburg

Maritzburg 0 – 0 Black Aces

Kaizer Chiefs 1 – 0 Maritzburg.

AMAZULU

OVERVIEW

USUTHU have had a woeful start, opening with a boardroom/coach battle before a ball was kicked when marketing manager Lunga Sokhela set a public mandate of a top four finish. Only seven games in, that seems out of reach. There remains confusion on Rosslee’s future after the board side-lined him on Friday following a supporters’ outcry demanding his sacking. Undoubtedly Rosslee has a promising squad at his disposal, some of whom have been successful in the PSL for some time. Carlington Nyadombo, Marc van Heerden, John Aruwah, Kulegani Madondo and Bongani Ndulula suggest Usuthu have no place as a relegation-threatened franchise.

Yet, the points tell another story. Rosslee had a full go at the PSL scheduling in the early stages that saw his side play five of their opening seven matches away. It has not been all bad and promising displays at Orlando Pirates and Polokwane City saw draws when Rosslee would have left wondering how his side had not won. A 3-2 extra time triumph over Bloemfontein Celtic in the Telkom Knockout on Saturday could have been AmaZulu’s turning point, but Rosslee was not part of that win — and whether he will be guiding the ship next weekend remains to be seen.

POSITIVES

This should be quick. The one glaring positive has been Ndulula’s call-up to the national squad. A surprise inclusion by Shakes Mashaba at the start of Afcon qualifiers, Ndulula was handed two international caps and already has a goal to his name. Mashaba is openly a big fan of the striker’s ability, standing AmaZulu in good stead. Usuthu have displayed glimpses of what they can achieve in a few matches — something to work with.

Looking at the glass half full, the only way is up. Things simply cannot get worse — something that is also a positive. Despite their abysmal campaign start, AmaZulu remain well-

resourced with a passionate board and world-class stadium. The league needs them to be operating at full tilt.

NEGATIVES

After the analysis and debate, football remains about one thing — results. They have not been forthcoming in Durban this season and that is obviously the main concern. On the pitch, Usuthu have too often been a disjointed outfit battling to keep the ball and manufacture any promising attacks. They have found the back of the net just four times (no club has scored less), while their defensive record is the third-worst in the league. For all of Ndulula’s promise, he has only scored one goal for his club this season — a penalty against Pirates.

The Rosslee saga has also been a sore point. The fans clearly want him gone while the board have been mum on the issue all week.

Whichever way the decision goes, it must be made quickly. Such uncertainty at a club cannot be good for anybody.

AMAZULU’S PSL RESULTS IN 2014/15

AmaZulu 0 – 0 Ajax

Moroka Swallows 2 – 1 AmaZulu

Orlando Pirates 1 – 1 AmaZulu

AmaZulu 0 – 2 Bloemfontein Celtic

Mamelodi Sundowns 2 – 0 AmaZulu

Polokwane City 2 – 2 AmaZulu

Wits 2 – 0 AmaZulu.

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