United draw in physical battle

2013-02-13 00:00

IT was a match typical of two sides who have not played a lot of competitive football recently as AmaZulu and Maritzburg United went through the motions in a goalless PSL draw at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban last night.

From a United perspective, the night was all about 17-year-old Maritzburg College matric student Bandile Shandu, who made his PSL debut after being included in coach Ernst Middendorp’s starting line-up.

Shandu was one of three new faces in the United side, with Namibian Heinrich Isaacks on the right wing and Dillon Sheppard on the opposite flank. Terrance Mandaza, as expected, started up front ahead of the injured Cuthbert Malajila.

The first 20 minutes were dull, with neither side able to manufacture any clear-cut chances. Isaacks came closest when he blasted an effort over from the right of goal.

But then the home side stepped it up a notch, showing their desperation to start amassing points in their bid to climb off the bottom of the table.

Middendorp had goalkeeper Shu-Aib Walters to thank for keeping the scores level at half-time.

On 22 minutes, a neat touch from Usuthu’s Thokozani Mshengu set up Goodman Dlamini for a fantastic chance — his side-footed effort brilliantly saved by a diving Walters who launched himself to his right.

Just four minutes later AmaZulu striker Ayanda Dlamini had shouts for a penalty waved away when he claimed to have been pulled down by United centre back Mario Booysen.

By this stage AmaZulu were in full flight, but as has been the case all season, couldn’t bring it together when a final pass or composed finish was required.

Andile Khumalo forced another fine save out of Walters on 32 minutes, the United shot-stopper this time diving to his left. And on the stroke of half-time AmaZulu coach Craig Rosslee would have been pulling his hair out when Ayanda Dlamini lost Booysen in the box, only to have his powerful strike tipped over the bar by Walters.

While United were being somewhat overrun in midfield, Shandu’s performance was by no means poor.

Playing in a pivotal central midfield role alongside Michael Morton, the College first team star played a few encouraging forward passes and through balls.

But at half-time Middendorp pulled Shandu off for the more physically imposing David Booysen.

The move seemed to pay dividends, as the bulked-up United limited the home side’s creativity.

The second half saw few chances for either side, and AmaZulu goalkeeper Tapuwa Kapinin was forced into making just one save the entire match. Ayanda Dlamini and Mshengu would both have good chances in the second half, but their efforts were too tame to trouble Walters.

Middendorp’s side always had men behind the ball, and appeared more than happy with a point on the road.

“The minimun we had set for ourselves was a point,” the United coach said after the match. “We have a lot of new players, especially up front, and we are working on it.”

Middendorp seemed satisfied with Shandu’s debut.

“It is clear that he is a player with a lot of potential and he is definitely in my plans moving forward to the next game,” Middendorp said.

“I thought he played well. The game got a bit more physical so I decided to take him out. I don’t need to break him in with 90 minutes.

“He will keep gaining confidence the more he gets on the ball.”

AmaZulu coach Rosslee said he would take some positives from his side’s performance, but acknowledged that he expected more from them in front of goal.

“I thought we did well and created a number of chances, but this Maritzburg defence is stubborn,” he said.

United are next in action when they take on Mamelodi Sundowns in Port Elizabeth on Friday.

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