'Keep the ball Rolling'

2008-09-26 00:00

AFTER a good start in the Premier Soccer League, new-look Maritzburg United will aim to continue their momentum in one of the league’s toughest away fixtures against Bloemfontein Celtic at the Free State Stadium tomorrow.

A big bonus for United is that they will have coach Gordon Igesund on the bench. Igesund was red-carded in the PMB team’s 3-2 league victory over Kaizer Chiefs at Chatsworth Stadium two weeks ago, and destined to watch tomorrow’s game from the stands, but the PSL review committee yesterday reversed the dismissal.

United have had promising results in their first two games, drawing 1-1 away against Ajax Cape Town before shocking Chiefs with 90 minutes of intense, blow-for-blow football. But an almost entirely new side will appreciate the presence of their coach against a Celtic team roared on by the best supporters in the country.

“It’s a big boost,” United captain Bageta Dikilu said last night of the PSL’s decision on Igesund. “We need the coach on the field, where he can shout instructions and motivate the players.”

While pleased at yesterday’s decision, United were disappointed the PSL review committee did not also reverse the yellow card to striker Brice Aka, who was booked for diving by referee Abdul Ebrahim, but was clearly fouled and had to go off injured.

While United’s attacking football thrilled their fans against Chiefs, the match did at times degenerate into something of a “war”, which carried on in the press the following week via Amakhosi coach Muhsin Ertugral.

The Team of Choice are in for another tough game against Celtic, who United have never beaten in the PSL. “It’s always a very tough game away against Celtic, but we are ready for them,” Dikilu said. “It’s like I said before the Ajax game — this team [United] have not had time together and each game we play we will be better.”

The elbowing incident by United’s Gary Goldstone on Chiefs striker Tshepo Bulu, for which the central defender was only booked, has resulted in a fine and two-game suspension for the United player.

This provides an opportunity for Guinean Sylla Mbemba, who started against Ajax but went off injured, to stake a claim next to Dikilu again.

“Playing with ‘Ben’ [Mbemba] is no problem for me,” Dikilu said. “I know Ben, and I know Gary, and they are both very experienced.

“They are quite different in style. Gary is a very physical, strong defender. Ben is more technical. He reads the game very well and is good positionally, and very clever.”

Dikilu, whose strength and experience at the back have been instrumental in the good start by the fledgling team, said United will play for a result in Bloemfontein.

“We need to try to stay in the top five, even until the end of the season. And it is not just me, but all of the players who have a belief that we can do that.

“The win against Chiefs gave us a lot of confidence. I know Celtic are a strong team, but after watching that game I am sure they could also be a worried.

“Maritzburg are a small name compared to Chiefs, Pirates and Sundowns, but we have got big players. I don’t think there is any team we need to be scared of.”

Celtic will be wary of a potent United attack that put three goals past Chiefs, in which strikers Aka and Fadlu Davids have shown signs of becoming a fearsome combination. Right-wing Sipho Mngomezulu impressed against Ajax, then was Man-of-the-Match against Chiefs.

Celtic have lost both their opening league games, 1-0 at home to Mamelodi Sundowns and 2-1 away to Thanda Royal Zulu. Despite their support, the Free State side, now coached by former Cape Town Spurs league winner Mich D’Avray, have tended to under-achieve in the PSL and last season finished 11th.

They have shown how seriously they are taking tomorrow’s game by refusing to release goalkeeper Shuaib Walters and star striker Petrus Mahlatsi for Bafana Bafana’s friendly against Malawi, and will play their hearts out to maintain their dominance over United.

•United’s vs AmaZulu on October 4, which was to be played at Woodburn Stadium, has been moved to Mpumalanga Stadium in Hammersdale because the pitch at Woodburn has suffered from rugby matches played there recently.

•United vs Celtic kickoff at 3.30 pm. Live: SuperSport Update (DStv 200)

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