United blow chances

2013-11-28 00:00

MARITZBURG United’s winless run continued at Harry Gwala Stadium when they were beaten 1-0 by Orlando Pirates in front of a packed house yesterday.

The result means that The Team of Choice have won just one in eight games under new coach Clinton Larsen, and he must now know what his new team needs in terms of personnel as the January transfer window approaches.

Pirates won courtesy of a 31st minute strike by Collins Mbesuma, the striker turning in a Thabo Matlaba cross from the left flank.

Against Golden Arrows, Larsen had said that where the team failed was the conversion of their chances, which again was the case yesterday.

It was, however, a slow start to the game as both sides matched each other pass for pass in the first 20 minutes.

United did, however, become the first team to have a shot on target with midfielder Ryan de Jongh’s hit after collecting the ball from Thokozani Sekotlong. It drew a top save from Pirates’ Bafana Bafana shotstopper Senzo Meyiwa.

The game, and the capacity crowd at Harry Gwala, seemed to liven up after 25 minutes when two challenges went unpunished.

Delron Buckley, who had just come on as an early first-half substitute for Rheece Evans, was felled by a hard challenge from Pirates’ Andile Jali.

Surprisingly, Jali was not carded. A minute later, it was Jali on the ground after being pole-axed by the United skipper. That challenge too went unpunished as the referee waved play on.

At that point, the home side seemed to be getting the better of the Soweto giants as De Jongh, and Ayanda Nkosi, had shot for United.

However, it was SA football’s man of the moment who created the most magical moment of the first half. The Buccaneers’ Bafana Bafana fullback Thabo Matlaba showed Peter Petersen a clean pair of heels down the left wing to put in a low cross for Zambian international Mbesuma.

The striker, who hardly misses from inside of the box, guided his shot past goalkeeper Shu-Aib Walters to give the visitors the lead against the run of play.

United seemed to have the wind punched out of them by the goal, but they regrouped before the half ended and had a number of chances, one of which was criminally not converted.

With De Jongh in possession, and Sekotlong making a decent run down the middle, all that needed to be done was for De Jongh to slip the ball to him, but he instead shot at goal unsuccessfully.

United had another chance to level on the stroke of half time the impressive youngster, starting in the place of Ruben Cloete, sent in a teasing cross from the flank, which was cut out by Meyiwa with two players in blue behind him.

The second half started with United the livelier side as they went in search of the equaliser.

How the scores were not tied on the 51st minute should be the matter of an inquiry as three United players bearing down on Meyiwa’s goal seemed to pass on the responsibility of shooting at goal to others.

United had another chance to get level on the 69th minute when a De Jongh cross to the near post just missed the lunging Buckley.

Sekotlong didn’t seem to have his shooting boots on, as with about 15 minutes to play, the ball landed on his feet on the end of the 18-yard-area, but his GPS seemed to be aiming for Princess Margaret Drive as he booted his attempt well over the bar, or perhaps he was thinking he was on the rugby field.

In the closing stages, it seemed as though Roger de Sa had brought out the bus and parked it in front of goal as the visitors were happy to sit back and let The Team of Choice do all the attacking.

After the fourth official had waved the board showing five minutes of stoppage time, United striker Mohammed Yakubu had a chance from a free-kick, but his powerful shot went wide off the post and the score remained 1-0.

As United chased an equaliser, it was Pirates who nearly snatched a second near the end, but Lennox Bacela’s shot from a Sifiso Myeni cross went agonisingly wide.

The Bucs were able to hold till the end to claim the three points against Larsen’s lads.

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