PMB United are on a roll

2009-03-24 00:00

IT seems safe to say, after Maritzburg United notched up their fifth straight league and cup win yesterday with a 2-1 Premier Soccer League victory over Wits University at Woodburn Stadium, that the Pietermaritzburg team are on a roll now.

United effectively ended their relegation concerns — they would need to lose their remaining five games, two of them at home, to be in any real danger of the drop — with a victory the home team had to toil for in yesterday’s afternoon heat.

With the scoreline 1-1 against superbly organised though bland opponents, whose winning results are gained through a mixture of grinding and boring their opponents to death, a United side clearly leaden-legged from going to extra-time in Friday’s Nedbank Cup victory over Santos in Cape Town lifted themselves in the last 20 minutes.

Their pressure resulted in a 90th-minute penalty after Justin Miller brought down lively half-time substitute Collen Zimba on the right side of the area, and captain Bageta Dikilu stepped up to calmly slot past Wits goalkeeper Energy Murambadoro.

And clearly it had taken all United’s energy to earn this crucial victory, which leaves United in 12th place and 11 points clear of last-placed Bay United and seven from second-last Bloemfontein Celtic, because at the end of the game several players collapsed in a withered heap.

After a moment to recuperate, though, they were up and dancing and embracing and applauding a decent-sized Tuesday afternoon crowd.

The players will be thankful for a break before their league game against Orlando Pirates at Woodburn on April 8 and Nedbank Cup quarter-final against Moroka Swallows on April 11 or 12.

“I’ve said in the last few games that the players have maintained their tactical discipline superbly and they did that again yesterday,” said United coach Gordon Igesund.

“It was quite a scrappy game and the players had to dig very deep and grind out a win, but we got the result. It was a fantastic, fantastic performance.

“We’ve played 25 games together now and you can see the difference. At the beginning of the season I said we’d finish in the middle of the table with an outside chance of the top eight. The teams above us are now just two points away.”

United opened the scoring when the ball fell on the edge of the area in the 24th minute to Sipho Mngomezulu, whose sweetly-struck shot beat Murambadoro at his left-hand post.

Seven minutes later, the home team allowed Wits to equalise when Tebogo Langerman was allowed a free header to put away Samuel Ramoseou’s cross from the right.

After the introduction of impact player Zimba for Fadlu Davids at the break, United engineered two good openings. Brice Aka skied his volley after Fanyana Dhladhla’s cross took an awkward deflection, then Dhladhla weaved into the area to tee up Zimba, who turned and saw his shot saved by Murambadoro.

The home team had a big let-off when Dikilu left Calvin Kadi’s looping header into the area for goalkeeper Michael Babale and Ramoseou snuck in to volley against the crossbar.

Substitute Lynch Pule forced another good save from Murambadoro from an acute angle before, in the last moments, Miller fouled Zimba and referee Daniel Bennett pointed to the penalty spot.

Yesterday: Maritzburg United 2 Wits University 1

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