United deserved to win

2013-04-04 00:00

ANYBODY who has written off Maritzburg United’s chances of a top eight finish in the PSL this season should think again, after the Team of Choice put in a courageously physical performance to draw 1-1 with log leaders Kaizer Chiefs at the Peter Mokaba stadium in Polokwane last night.

Such was United’s display that they would have been deserved winners, but Chiefs made use of one of their few opportunities to equalise midway through the second half.

United coach Ernst Middendorp had set up aggressively, moving regular fullback Rheece Evans to right wing where his speed was evident from the start.

In the first half, those who didn’t know any better would have struggled to identify which of the two sides was top of the PSL table.

United were every bit as good as Chiefs, if not better, and created the lion’s share of the chances.

United’s back four were completely in sync, holding a tight line that caught Chiefs offside on numerous occasions in the early stages of the clash. As a result, Amakhosi were forced to make most of their shots from distance, and the United captain, shot-stopper Shu-Aib Walters, had a relatively comfortable opening period.

Left wing Dillon Sheppard was a constant threat, while his defensive work throughout the night was exemplary.

Middendorp might have felt that his side deserved to be up at the break.

On 11 minutes, Evans’s speed saw him cut into the right-hand side of the Chiefs area before he ran out of space and had his shot closed down.

United came close just three minutes later, when Namibian international Heinrich Isaacks cut inside from the left of midfield only to see his powerful deflected effort saved by the sharp reflexes of Itumeleng Khune.

Ruben Cloete, in his familiar holding midfield role, forced Khune into another spectacular save just four minutes later with a powerful dip from distance. Cloete was at it again with 25 minutes gone, but this time his long shot went straight at Khune.

But it was in the second half that the game really came to life.

It couldn’t have gone better for United, who were 1-0 up in the 48th minute through either a Mario Booysen close-range finish or a Morgan Gould own goal.

Delron Buckley whipped in a crossed free-kick from the left that Khune came for, but missed. The ball bobbed off Chiefs left-back Keegan Ritchie before Gould scrambled the ball off the line when it already appeared to be a goal. But it didn’t matter, because Booysen was on hand to end all doubt when he smashed in his shot.

United appeared comfortable in the lead, but Chiefs got more and more into the match.

Middendorp brought on Terrance Mandaza to partner Zimbabwean Cuthbert Malajila, the pair who put in a heroic performance against Chippa United on Sunday.

But when a towering header from Eric Matoho from a Siphiwe Tshabalala corner levelled matters, the wind was knocked out of United’s sails. Walters had little chance to save what was a header of the utmost precision.

As the rain came down, the result became more inevitable and the 1-1 draw is a mirror of the result between the sides at Harry Gwala back in October.

There would be further chances for Malajila and Tshabalala, but what was an exciting and fast moving match ended without any more goals.

“The biggest problem today is that there was only one man of the match, the whole team deserved it,” Middendorp said of Sheppard’s standout performance.

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