Top of the log, for today

2012-09-15 00:00

A SHAKE of the head from Maritzburg United coach Ernst Middendorp greeted the final whistle of his side’s 1-1 draw with Free State Stars in a PSL encounter at Harry Gwala stadium last night.

Ironic, considering that the draw sees the Team of Choice perched at the top of the log, though they will be back in second by the end of today if Kaizer Chiefs beat Black Leopards at Soccer City.

On what was a cold and wet Pietermaritzburg evening, it appeared as though United had done enough to win the fixture when Mario Booysen headed in his second goal of the season to give his side the lead in the 70th minute.

But Stars responded well, and were level just five minutes later through a piledriver from replacement Dove Wome.

Middendorp hadn’t made any changes to the team that so impressively beat Mamelodi Sundowns on September 2, and the first half was completely dominated by the home side. With Cuthbert Malajila and Terrance Mandaza moving off of each other superbly as United’s attack, Ryan de Jongh was given another start in a holding midfield role and along with Michael Morton broke up any Stars attacks before they got going. With Delron Buckley (left) and Mthokozisi Yende (right) looking lively on the wings, it appeared as though the decent sized crowd that had braved the elements would have reason to celebrate. But for all their dominance, United couldn’t find a way through.

At half time, Middendorp sacrificed right back Peter Petersen, who wa on a yellow card for Wayne Matle in a move that saw De Jongh move to right back and Buckley take up a more central role. Mandaza was also withdrawn and replaced by the lively Orlando Smeekes.

It was a game of two halves, with United clearly the better in the first and Stars unlikely not to score at least one more in the second.

“It was an okay result for us. Obviously when you are leading 1-0 you always expect more but we were not playing against a Mickey Mouse team,” United coach Ernst Middendorp said after the match.

“We have had a good start to the season and we will another few days until our next fixture against Black Leopards and we will look to pick up points there.”

Stars coach Steve Khompela was full of praise for his opposition.

“It is no mistake that they are sitting on top of the log,” he said.

“They are a well structured side with lots of quality players.”

• See The Witness website (www.witness.co.za) for video footage from last night’s post-match interviews and more from Harry Gwala.

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