Malajila rescues United

2012-05-02 00:00

CUTHBERT Malajila scored his third goal in as many games in last night’s 1-1 draw with AmaZulu at the Harry Gwala stadium to ensure that Maritzburg United will play PSL football next season.

Malajila’s last minute strike cancelled out Goodman Dlamini’s first-half opener and has left United in a position where it is mathematically impossible for them to be relegated from the PSL this season.

It was a game of few chances, but United would have been happy with the way they started.

With Malajila, Peter Petersen and Byrone Hendricks all returning to the starting lineup, the hosts enjoyed most of the ball in the opening exchanges. But when it came to creating attacking opportunities in dangerous positions, both sides struggled for much of the first period.

AmaZulu resorted to long range efforts from striker Ayanda Dlamini and then Thami Sangweni, but the first clear cut chance of the game would fall at the feet of Malajila.

The Zimbabwean was slipped in behind the AmaZulu defence by winger Thabang Matuka, but with only the keeper to beat he smothered his shot and it went harmlessly wide.

United’s central midfield workhorse Michael Morton received a knock that cut him above his eye, and the hosts were forced to play a few minutes with 10 men as the eventual man of the match received attention.

As physical as the encounter was, it appeared that the sides would go into the break level.

That was until first-half stoppage time when poor defending from United and good combination play between AmaZulu’s two Dlaminis — Ayanda and Goodman — resulted in the former squaring a ball that the latter had no problem tapping in from point blank range to make it 1-0.

The beginning of the second-half showed no signs of United possessing the ability to make a comeback.

The passes simply weren’t happening for them in the right areas of the park and, as a result, long balls forward became the order of the day.

In the 62nd minute United coach Ernst Middendorp brought on striker Diyo Sibisi for Matuka, and the move appeared to be appreciated by Malajila. It didn’t take long before Sibisi and Malajila proved that they can play alongside each other and threaten to score.

The pair linked up well as Malajila set up Sibisi, but the shot was easily saved by Tapuwa Kapini in goal.

The game opened up as it drew to a close. With United pressing forward in search of a winner, AmaZulu were given a chance to secure victory through Ayanda Dlamini on 90 minutes, but United shot stopper Shu-Aib Walters made what would prove to be a crucial save as he launched himself to his right.

In the dying stages of the match, a determined Hendricks had thrown himself forward to help out his attackers. When he flicked on a header for Malajila, who had made a run into the box, you could almost hear the Harry Gwala faithful take in a deep breath.

But United’s newest superstar made no mistake, taking his time before lofting his effort over Kapini to secure an invaluable point for his side.

• sport@witness.co.za

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