Teen substitutes brighten the score for Maritzburg United

2010-10-16 00:00

AFTER a frustrating, poor start to the season, Maritzburg United finally broke the ice with a first victory of the season last night, a deserved 1-0 win over Moroka Swallows at Harry Gwala Stadium.

After a rusty 3-2 opening defeat to AmaZulu, United’s season appeared to be getting on track with an impressive 1-1 draw against Kaizer Chiefs.

From there things went pear-shaped, though, with two unpolished defeats, 3-0 at home to Lamontville Golden Arrows and 2-0 away to Bloemfontein Celtic.

There was a reason United’s fans were dancing in the stands after last night’s victory. The club, its supporters, players and coach Ernst Middendorp would have breathed a collective sigh of relief last night after finally notching that all-important first win in their fifth match of the season.

A three-week break from United’s defeat to Celtic gave Middendorp time to iron out the kinks.

The result was a far more coordinated performance from United, who dominated for 90 minutes in wet, slippery conditions, and should have scored more goals.

Substitute JB Ncubeni was the game-breaker for the home team. Middendorp will feel satisfied that, unlike his German compatriot at Swallows, Rainer Zobel, the United coach’s substitutions worked out well on the night.

With United dominating and creating good chances, but still just not putting those away, 18-year-old attacker Ncubeni’s 63rd-minute introduction for defender Elias Ngwepe swung the game United’s way.

In reply Zobel brought on defensive player Giorgi Nergadze for attacker Oscar Machapa.

Within three minutes of his introduction Ncubeni provided the cross that led to Felix Obada’s winning goal. Three minutes later Nergadze fouled Obada and got the red card from referee Jacob Frolick.

Ghanaian John Arwuah’s return to the middle of the park from defence, playing alongside Bevan Fransch as a defensive midfield pairing, brought greater stability to United, a major factor in the improved performance.

Maritzburg would have been bitterly disappointed not to go into the break leading by a goal.

Midfielder Musa Nyatama could have had a hat-trick, though it was denied by Birds goalkeeper Greg Etafia twice, and he couldn’t connect a third opportunity.

Swallows manufactured their only real first chance five minutes into the second half when Morgan Shivambu stabbed his shot from close range inches wide.

From there on it was one-way traffic again.

Ncubeni’s introduction made the difference, and the midfielder’s dangerous cross in the 66th minute could only be palmed by Etafia as far as Sibisi, whose shot came off the right upright where Felix Obada was lurking to scramble the ball over.

Moments later Swallows were reduced to 10 men. Ncubeni’s sharp skills continued to be influential, as the midfielder played Obada through on the right, whose chip was just too high for an unmarked Sibisi, who skied his header. Then SA under-20 international Ncubeni shot wide. Some skills in a bright cameo by another teen substitute, left-wing Sheldon Lawrence, kept Swallows on the back foot.

Last night: Ajax Cape Town 1 Santos 1, Maritzburg United 1 Moroka Swallows 0

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