Reaching for their best

2013-04-13 00:00

THE enormity of today’s Nedbank Cup quarter-final between Maritzburg United and SuperSport United at Harry Gwala has been well documented this week. Where it has been a poor season for SuperSport so far (they lie fourth on the PSL log, with a frustrating 14 draws from 24 matches), Maritzburg’s season has been one to remember.

Just two points behind SuperSport and in sixth place, the Team of Choice are on the verge of securing their best finish in the PSL, and the top eight is the priority.

But today’s 3 pm kickoff is not about the league. It offers an opportunity to be one of four teams battling it out for the most coveted cup in South African football, and if Maritzburg are to be one of those teams, they must beat SuperSport for the first time.

For a club that have never won a major domestic trophy, the opportunities that victory today will present are immense.

How will coach Ernst Middendorp approach today’s challenge? Will the emphasis be on defensive structure, with the side moving around the pitch as a unit, as was seen in Sunday’s 1-1 draw with ­Bloemfontein Celtic? Or will he grab the game by the horns and instruct his side to display the improvements they have made in moving the ball forward at speed on attack, as was seen against Chippa United and Kaizer Chiefs?

Either way, Maritzburg will need at least one goal to ensure their advance to the semi-finals, as they won’t want to rely on a penalty shootout.

And as always, the man who will be tasked with finding the back of the net is Zimbabwean striker Cuthbert Malajila.

With nine league goals to his name this season, behind Bernard Parker (Chiefs) and Katlego Mashego (Moroka Swallows) on 10 each, Malajila is certain that the home crowd at Harry Gwala can give Maritzburg the momentum to win today.

“They have the ability to motivate us. They believe in us,” Malajila said. “I just hope that they come in their numbers, because if they do, then I believe we can go all the way.”

Middendorp said earlier in the week that he expects today’s clash to be a tight one, and these sentiments are shared by his first-choice striker.

“I think that the team that makes more mistakes will be the team that loses,” said Malajila.

“But we are prepared and we know that we can match any side in the league. We are tired of losing to SuperSport.”

Indeed, if ever there was a time that Maritzburg were capable of beating their bogey side, today is it.

The match kicks off at 3 pm and will be televised on SuperSport Four and SABC 1.

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