Not a Merry Christmas break for Maritzburg United

2008-12-21 00:00

IT will not be a very merry Christmas break for Maritzburg United after their 2-0 defeat against Thanda Royal Zulu saw the Pietermaritzburg team continue their alarming Premier Soccer League slump.

With both teams below them winning this weekend, United have plunged from the top half of the table to just a point above the relegation zone.

Last-placed Bloemfontein Celtic recorded just their second league victory yesterday, 1-0 at home to Free State Stars at Seisa Ramabodu Stadium, while on Saturday second-last Bay United pulled off an improbable 2-1 away win over fourth-placed Lamontville Golden Arrows in Umlazi.

Maritzburg are a point above Bay and two from Celtic, though the PMB side do have a game in hand.

More concerning is that United have gone nine matches notching up just one victory, a 2-1 home win against Bay, conceding 21 goals with six defeats and two draws. A loss at home to a mid-table side indicates United have problems.

Coach Gordon Igesund conceded as much, but his explanation that United just do not have the squad to compete in the PSL because of the late start to their pre-season does not seem sufficient explanation.

“I’m very disappointed,” said Igesund, for whom yesterday’s defeat followed United’s 3-0 midweek away loss to Mamelodi Sundowns. “I know I have to release four or five players and make some good signings when the transfer window opens, especially in the middle of the park.

“You have to ask yourself, ‘Are we really good enough to compete in this league?’. I mean, you can’t put Jodie Scheckter into a VW and expect him to race against a Ferrari. The reality is that was the best this team could have played this afternoon, and it still wasn’t good enough.”

While United clearly do need to bolster their squad in key areas when the transfer window opens next month, on paper the team’s strength does not appear poor enough to go nine matches with only one win.

United are a completely new side, and it takes time to build a team, particularly with the PSL as competitive as it is these days. But there can be no disguising that the team have underachieved with the players they have in the first half of the season.

Yesterday it was a similar story of not stamping their authority on home turf.

United enjoyed the greater possession and had more shots on goal, but too many were off target and Thanda, who have scored 12 goals in four games, made the better of their more clearcut chances.

In a goalless first half that was shaded by United, Thanda’s Bernard Parker forced two good saves from goalkeeper Hunter Gilstrap, with shots from eight metres and just outside the area.

For United, Tony Tsabedze’s shot from a narrow angle was straight at ‘keeper Aubrey Mathibe, Brice Aka’s header bounced wide and John Arwuah drove just off target from the edge of the area.

United began the second half exerting pressure, and Sipho Mngomezulu blasted over before Thanda defender Ahmed Mohamed cleared Aka’s touch from in front of the line.

United had their best chance so far when Peter Petersen was put through on the right by a pass from Arwuah, and his shot was blocked at point-blank by Mathibe.

Thanda opened the scoring with a 64th-minute four-on-three breakaway goal, where Parker put Felix Obada through to beat Gilstrap with a cracking finish. Two minutes later Obada’s header slipped wide with Gilstrap in no-man’s land.

United pushed hard to equalise, with lively substitute Junior Khanye blasting over and striker Fadlu Davids controlling Arwuah’s chip and seeing his effort acrobatically held by Mathibe.

Thanda wrapped up the game in the 90th minute when Nkosinathi Nhleko’s skidding shot was fumbled at by Gilstrap on the way into the net.

Igesund might complain about the strength of his squad, but can only blame himself for releasing last season’s tidy ‘keeper, Dominic Sithole, who would have served as better back-up to erratic Gilstrap than shaky Namibian Athiel Mbaha.

United return from the break with an away fixture against Moroka Swallows on January 11.

Also yesterday, Wits University returned to third place with a 1-0 victory away to Moroka Swallows at Germiston Stadium, defender Junaid Mashamaite heading in the 57th-minute winner.

Some fine saves by AmaZulu goalkeeper Kalilo Kakonje earned his team a 0-0 home draw under pressure from Orlando Pirates at Princess Magogo Stadium.

On Saturday, Ajax Cape Town regained the PSL lead with a 1-0 victory over Mamelodi Sundowns at Athlone Stadium, Brazilian Eduardo Fereirra scoring the 20th-minute winner.

Yesterday Sundowns chairman Patrice Motsepe officially apologised in a statement for coach Henri Michel shunning the post-match TV interviews.

Saturday: Ajax Cape Town 1 Mamelodi Sundowns 0, Kaizer Chiefs 2 Platinum Stars 2, Lamontville Golden Arrows 1 Bay United 2, Supersport United 0 Santos 1

Yesterday: Moroka Swallows 0 Wits University 1, AmaZulu 0 Orlando Pirates 0, Maritzburg United 0 Thanda Royal Zulu 2, Bloemfontein Celtic 1 Free State Stars 0

STANDINGS

P W D L F A Pts

Ajax 13 8 2 3 18 15 26

Supersport 14 7 4 3 19 11 25

Wits 14 7 2 5 18 16 23

Arrows 14 6 4 4 18 13 22

Santos 13 6 3 4 14 13 21

Pirates 13 5 5 3 13 8 20

Chiefs 14 6 2 6 21 19 20

AmaZulu 14 6 2 6 15 17 20

Sundowns 14 5 4 5 16 13 19

Thanda 14 6 1 7 23 22 19

Swallows 14 5 4 5 18 17 19

P Stars 14 4 6 4 18 16 18

FS Stars 14 3 5 6 13 16 14

Mburg Utd 13 3 4 6 12 25 13

Bay Utd 14 3 3 8 17 27 12

Celtic 14 2 5 7 8 16 11

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