Ngwepe: Ernst Middendorp is world-class

2009-12-18 00:00

MARITZBURG United’s improved form is no fluke, says left-back Elias Ngwepe, and is mostly down to the refreshing approach taken by new coach Ernst Middendorp.

While it is a little early to talk of a revival, United’s form in their last three Premier Soccer League games, beating Bloemfontein Celtic 2-0 away and Ajax Cape Town 2-1 at home, then losing 1-0 to championship contenders Mamelodi Sundowns in Tshwane on Wednesday night, holds much promise.

“I’m happy our form has been improving because we weren’t getting the results,” Ngwepe said yesterday.

“We played well against Sundowns, but in the first half the guys were not really in the game. I don’t know what the problem was, but in the second half we managed to improve and we missed two or three clear chances.”

Reports from Gauteng indicated that Sundowns hardly seemed to rate United’s chances, and perhaps understandably because the Brazilians thrashed the PMB team 5-1 at Woodburn Stadium the last time the sides met. And yet, after 90 hard-fought minutes, Downs might have had greater respect for the Team of Choice.

“Sundowns are one of the best teams in the league and 90% of their players play in their national teams, like Esrom Nyandoro and Elias Pelembe, plus they have players like Matthew Pattison. And we were definitely competing,” Ngwepe said.

The little left-back, whose tigerish approach has endeared him to the United fans, has high praise for Middendorp, who replaced Gordon Igesund as United coach eight matches ago.

“I think Middendorp is one of the best coaches in the country and a world-class coach. Since he has come in he has changed everything and you can see the difference,” Ngwepe said.

“He knows South African football and in training what shows through is that he wants to win things. He’s given us more freedom and he wants us to knock the ball around, which the players are enjoying.

“Our confidence has come back in the last three games, especially after we beat Celtic 2-0 away, because we knew they were a good team and had been winning games.

“Then we managed to beat Ajax 2-1 at home, where there was that soft penalty, and we could have won by more.”

United play Moroka Swallows on Sunday in their last game before the league breaks until early February.

“What we said after the Sundowns game is that ‘Now we have to kill them [Swallows] on Sunday’,” Ngwepe said.

“We know Swallows lost 4-0 to AmaZulu on Wednesday. But we also can’t think about that scoreline too much because football is a cruel game and you never know what’s going to happen.

“But we can’t afford to lose two games in a row. If you look at the bottom eight teams, there are very few points between them. If we can beat Swallows we’ll be in ninth or 10th, and then when we come back from the break we can push for a top eight place.”

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