Middendorp defends tactical decisions

2011-01-24 00:00

MARITZBURG United coach Ernst Middendorp has defended some of the tactical decisions he made in his side’s 3-0 Premier Soccer League defeat against Lamontville Golden Arrows at Chatsworth Stadium on Saturday.

United have reached new heights in erratic form in their last three matches. A 3-0 defeat away to Mamelodi Sundowns was followed by a stunning 3-0 home victory over Ajax Cape Town in midweek, then Saturday’s reversal again by the very same margin.

It just does not seem possible to gauge which United will show up on a day.

The refereeing of Buyile Gcubule is sure to spark much debate on tonight’s TV chat shows.

United were at the wrong end of of two controversial decisions that took the stuffing out of their effort in a first half played in sweltering heat: a 20th-minute penalty against Byron Hendricks for shirt-tugging Collins Mbesuma and the 38th-minute dismissal of David Booysen for what seemed to be merely a bookable foul on Njabulo Manqana.

“We went well for 20 minutes and then the penalty, and I’m sorry, I know there was a tug from our player on Mbesuma, but he was not even a target for the free-kick and could it really be a penalty?” Middendorp asked.

“Minutes later, and the ball was already in the hands of [United goalkeeper] Shu-aib Walters and the Arrows player went down. Yes Booysen might have made contact but at most it was a yellow card.

“Then with 10 men after about 35 minutes, having played a high- intensity game three days before where we really wanted to win at home, and in such heat, it was very difficult for us to come back.”

Middendorp said that while the refereeing decisions were harsh, a pattern of undisciplined play by United also needs to be addressed.

“We are not blaming somebody else – we have to stop making these mistakes. With the penalty it is something which we know we should not do.”

There was grumbling in the stands about the omission of right-back Peter Petersen and utilisation of gangly central defender Mor Diouf in his place, but Middendorp defended his decision.

“Petersen, in his physical condition, cannot play every three days. I know my players well enough, and the fans must trust me on this.

“I think Petersen’s problem is he was not been honest with himself — and he did it because he was trying to help. At the start of the season he was in poor condition and we put him on a programme.

“But perhaps we brought him in too quickly and after two or three matches he was injured. Then he came back, and after two or three matches he was injured again.

“That is why I have brought him back sparingly, to make sure this does not happen again. In the heat, he could have been injured again.”

The coach said Diouf was at right-back because of tactical aspects that occurred in United’s 3-0 defeat at home to Arrows earlier this season.

 

“We were killed on the left side in our first game against Arrows by the overlapping of [left-back] Mzivukile Tom. The players on our right that night were Petersen and [Felix] Obada. And we could have been silly and tried to do the same thing again, but we opted not to.

“Mor is not a right-back, I know. But in Saturday’s game there was no overlapping on his side.”

The coach said he believes United are still on track for a top eight place despite a result that has left them back in the last-three dogfight.

“It is amazing how quickly supporters forget how they enjoyed such an outstanding performance against Ajax and then three days later everyone is a fool.

“We have Chiefs on Saturday and that is not a game where you expect a result. You tell your players to enjoy playing at Soccer City, and to relax, and if you get a result it is a bonus.

“After that we have home games against AmaZulu, Vasco, Platinum Stars and Wits and away games against Free State Stars and Swallows, and let’s see what we can get from these fixtures.”

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