No silver for United

2014-05-05 00:00

THE dream of Maritzburg United lifting their first ever piece of major silverware is over. The Team of Choice were outplayed by a tactically astute Orlando Pirates to go down 2-1 in Saturday night’s Nedbank Cup semi-final at an overflowing Harry Gwala Stadium.

Two second half goals ensured that Pirates will meet Wits, who upset Kaizer Chiefs in Saturday’s earlier semi-final, in the tournament finale.

The visitors scored through a Mario Booysen own goal (52 minutes) and a long distance strike from Mpho Makola (60 minutes) before United gave themselves a chance through substitute Terrance Mandaza with 17 minutes left on the clock.

Maritzburg coach Steve Komphela had started with a conventional 4-4-2, picking speedsters Orlando Smeekes and Frank Sarfo-Gyamfi as his two most attacking players as he sought, expectedly, to play a direct counterattacking game largely dependent on pace.

But that tactic was short-lived, as Smeekes pulled up with a hamstring strain in the 18th minute and was substituted for Mandaza. Desperate to impress as he looks to secure a contract extension for next season, Smeekes was left an emotional wreck on the United bench after coming off.

“I was still doing some counselling up until right now,” Komphela said of Smeekes’s mental state at the post-match press conference. “He was shattered. He is a perfectionist and very hard on himself.”

Indeed, most of the United squad would have been shattered, and Komphela said that yesterday’s light training session had been aimed at getting them over that feeling ahead of tomorrow night’s PSL clash against Wits in Johannesburg.

“They are still disappointed,” the coach acknowledged to The Witness yesterday. “But we will have to get over it. There is nothing we can do. We are professionals and there is no time to look back.”

United were encouraging in the first half on Saturday, though by the end of the first 45 minutes Pirates had begun to show glimpses of why they have played in every cup final available to them this season.

Daine Klate could have given the visitors the lead as early as the 14th minute when his shot from point blank range was hit straight at Virgil Vries in what was the closest either side came in the opening stanza.

The match came to life in the second period, and Bucs were 1-0 up in bizarre fashion just seven minutes after the restart.

Klate’s low cross from the left was deflected goalwards by Kermit Erasmus before Vries made a sharp save that pushed the ball onto the crossbar. When it came back down, Booysen was in no position to react as the ball hit him and bobbled into the net.

United were stunned, and were visibly frustrated as Pirates kept the ball with ease. When Makola side footed past Vries from just outside the area to make it 2-0, it appeared to be game, set and match.

That was until Mandaza gave Maritzburg a glimmer of hope with an expert finish with his left foot after controlling an Ashley Harthog cross. The home side finished the match strongest, and Mandaza almost took the tie to extra time in the dying stages, but his shot was wayward.

It was a performance that Maritzburg can be proud of. With lots of “ïfs” and “buts”, it could have been a different story.

The Smeekes injury stands out as most relevant, as Komphela’s game plan had revolved around the Dutchman’s speed, strength and energy on the counter.

“We knew that Mandaza wouldn’t be able to give us the same speed when he came on, so it was a matter of him taking the ball in front of the defence instead of behind the defence,” Komphela, refusing to use the Smeekes injury as an excuse, explained. “He [Mandaza] did well for us when he came on.”

United have two more league matches remaining this season — tomorrow’s date with Wits and Saturday’s potentially title-deciding fixture against Mamelodi Sundowns at Harry Gwala. Regardless of what happens in those two matches, Maritzburg’s season has gone from potential relegation to PSL safety and a cup semi-final in four months since Komphela arrived.

“I am pleased with the way things have gone,” he said. “Nobody wants to be a relegation hero, but I am happy that we have survived and reached our mandate.”

Tomorrow night’s clash kicks off at 7.30 pm and will not be televised.

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
Traffic
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.