McCarthy shows he still has legs for PSL

2010-11-09 00:00

ONE of the most pleasing aspects for Maritzburg United coach Ernst Middendorp of Sunday’s dramatic 2-0 Telkom Knockout quarter-final win over Mamelodi Sundowns at Harry Gwala Stadium, would have been the man-of-the-match performance of veteran Fabian McCarthy.

The former Kaizer Chiefs and Sundowns stalwart capped a solid, fighting defensive display with an excellently executed headed goal in the 59th minute that made it 2-0 to United and effectively sealed a famous victory to the home team.

McCarthy’s signing early this season was aimed at bolstering a defence that had been one of the leakiest in the league. However, it was a slight gamble.

The central defender barely had any game time last season at Moroka Swallows due to disagreements with the club. And 33 is not young anymore for a footballer.

Yet while the effects of McCarthy’s rustiness were noticeable in his first few games at Maritzburg, the PMB team have conceded just one goal in four unbeaten matches since his arrival, three of those victories.

Of course, mostly it has been a dramatically superior team effort that has led to the improvement, but McCarthy’s experience has also been felt. And on Sunday the defender showed he still has the legs for the PSL, matching the action in a high intensity cup tie.

“There were a lot of options for Man of the Match [against Sundowns], it was not just Fabian,” Middendorp said afterwards.

“Peter [Petersen] played an outstanding match, [goalkeeper] Shu-aib [Walters] was asked to do an outstanding job on three or four occasions, and it was perfect.

“Fabian is already giving us what we were thinking of in the centre of defence when we signed him, with his leadership.”

In a Telkom tournament that has gone with form and status, with the big guns progressing over the minnows, Maritzburg became the first giant-killers on Sunday.

They did it against a team they have lost all their last nine meetings against.

The victory will go down as one of their most significant yet, given United’s poor record against Sundowns.

And it saw the Team of Choice into only their second-ever semi-final.

The PMB team reached the semis of the Absa Cup under Mlungisi Ngubane in 2006, losing 2-1 to Orlando Pirates at Loftus.

United meet the Buccaneers again in the Telkom semis, on November 21 or 22, though this time the Team of Choice will have home advantage.

United will now hope to continue with their consistent, upward curve they have displayed in the last three weeks to begin to move up from 14th place in the league.

They have tough matches lined up, though — against wounded champions SuperSport United tomorrow night at Harry Gwala Stadium, Santos in Cape Town on Saturday, and Pirates in the league on November 26 — a second meeting against Bucs within days of the Telkom semi-final.

“We have to go into the match on Wednesday with the same performance, attitude and approach as against Sundowns, and then again on Saturday,” Middendorp said.

“We need points in the league too.

“It’s not just in one match that we’ve done well but over the last four. And we need this to continue,” he said.

• Tickets for tomorrow’s PSL game against SuperSport are available at SuperSave in Retief Street, Bhamjees Sports, Poobie Naidoo’s Sports, the club offices at 397 Victoria Road and the OK MiniMark in College Road.

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