It’s slip or slide as Sundowns face United

2011-01-15 00:00

MAMELODI Sundowns have let a commanding lead in the Premier Soccer League slip in their last two matches, and face a further challenge when they meet Maritzburg United at the Lucas Moripe Stadium in Atteridgeville this evening.

Sundowns have an intimidating 100% win record over United in the league, but the Brazilians will be all too aware that the PMB team notched up their first victory ever in meetings between the sides in this season’s Telkom Knockout quarter-finals, with a 2-0 win at Harry Gwala Stadium in November.

It’s the sort of reversal that just might prey on the minds of the Sundowns players as they attempt to prevent a slip from becoming a slide in what at one stage appeared a convincing command of the race for the PSL title.

A 3-2 home defeat against AmaZulu in their last match before the Christmas break, and 1-0 loss to Kaizer Chiefs at FNB Stadium straight after it, saw Sundowns’ seven-point gap over Amakhosi cut to one.

Chiefs could have taken the lead with a win over Ajax Cape Town in last night’s late game (see result elsewhere on this page).

So Downs will be under a certain amount of pressure to go out to re-establish their dominance over United in this evening’s fixture.

Brazilians captain Esrom Nyandoro said: “After going two games without a win, we feel duty-bound to bring back the smiles to our suppor­ters by getting a positive result against Maritzburg.

“They will be coming to us brimming with confidence after they beat us in the Telkom and having done well in their past two games, but I trust our players are experienced enough to handle anything.”

United have won twice in a row — 1-0 against Mpumalanga Black Aces at home and 2-1 away against Wits University — to end a six-game winless run.

While the defeat of Wits just before the break ended the Students’ unbeaten record at home this season, last weekend’s victory over last-placed Aces was patchy to say the least against a team that had lost its last five matches, conceding 14 goals and scoring just one.

It has been poor finishing that has cost United most this campaign, with lapses in concentration at the back also costly.

But the PMB team will take confidence that overall they have not played poor football, and they do manage to create chances with at times incisive attacking play by some very promising forwards.

Adding to the attacking potential of players such as Rudolf Bester and Diyo Sibisi, now, is midfielder Gert Schalkwyk on loan from Pirates, who made a promising debut against Aces.

Fanyana Mokoena (formerly Dhladhla) showed the effects of a year not playing first team football at Sundowns, and six months clubless.

United coach Ernst Middendorp has decided to allow the right wing to gain fitness before fielding him again and Mokoena is not in the travelling squad.

Playmaker Musa Nyatama is bound in his loan contract from Sundowns from playing against the team he will join at the end of this season, but otherwise Maritzburg have a full squad available.

Downs’ defender Luvhengo Mungomeni has been suspended.

• Tickets for United’s match against Ajax Cape Town at Harry Gwala Stadium on Wednesday are available at the following outlets (R40 adults, R20 scholars): Maritzburg United offices (397 Victoria Road), Supersave in Retief Street, Shoprite Checkers/Computicket, Bhamjees Sports in Boshoff Street, Poobie Naidoos Sports in Boshoff Street and OK Mini Market in College Road.

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