United earn point in KZN derby

2011-02-03 00:00

MARITZBURG United might have had to settle for a 1-1 draw in their Premier Soccer League match against AmaZulu last night, but the team showed fight to get a result on an evening when it seemed things just might not go the PMB side’s way again.

United will be disappointed to have dropped points at home at Harry Gwala Stadium but in the context of the manner in which the game played itself out, the home side will be satisfied to have got some sort of result in a typically hard-fought KwaZulu-Natal derby.

While United’s aim remains to reach mid-table and challenge for a top-eight place, in terms of a relegation battle the point gained last night saw the gap over second-last Moroka Swallows, 2-0 losers against Mamelodi Sundowns in Atteridgeville, inch to six.

United continued to display their brand of positive football and again created chances. However, it was the determination Maritzburg showed to get something out of the game after an opportunistic opening goal for Usuthu by Sibusiso Hadebe in the 21st minute that the home team will be satisfied with.

Diyo Sibisi equalised for the home team in the 86th minute.

It is a satisfaction, of course still tempered by the knowledge that, once again, United really could well have won this match, even though they never quite hit their top stride against determined visitors.

Now United will aim to continue picking up points in a not overly intimidating five-match programme that sees them taking on Bloemfontein Celtic at Harry Gwala on Saturday night, Swallows (away), Platinum Stars (home), Supersport United (away) and Santos (home).

Maritzburg had two early chances, both for Diyo Sibisi, the striker putting free header wide from JB Ncubeni’s cross and then blasting just high from the edge of the area.

AmaZulu began to work themselves into the game, though, with some patient build-ups that produced a few nervous moments at the back for the home team.

Usuthu opened the scoring via an excellent strike from Hadebe. The little left-back’s dipping shot from more than 30 metres looped over the outstretched arm of goalkeeper Shu-aib Walters, who had been caught off his line, and in under the crossbar.

United had started in their shells, somewhat, but put in a more commanding display for the rest of the half. The home team piled on the pressure with Usuthu defending impressively to keep Maritzburg at bay.

The PMB team’s poor fortune in front of goal continued to plague them too, as defender Mor Diouf twice got his head on the end of set pieces. The big Senegalese skimmed the top-netting from Rudolf Bester’s free-kick and hit the upright from Ncubeni’s corner just before the break.

In the second half United laid siege to the AmaZulu goal.

Substitute Gert Schalkwyk’s 54th-minute shot from the edge of the area forced a good save from Usuthu ’keeper Mbongeni Mzimela.

A similar effort at the other end by Bongani Mbele was equally well-saved by Walters. That, though, was a rare chance for Usuthu.

But, as much as United exerted pressure, AmaZulu stood firm. Characteristically swift and enterprising build-ups by the home team almost all ended with a desperate Usuthu intercept, as the well-organised visitors put their bodies on the line to achieve a valuable result on the road.

Finally, though, one of United’s crisp, fluid passing exchanges did yield a hard-earned goal, as the ball was worked free to Sibisi on the left who stroked the equaliser past Mzimela.

Sibisi could have scored a winner in the 88th but stumbled and miscued while attempting to connect Bester’s ball across goal.

Last night: Moroka Swallows 0 Mamelodi Sundowns 2, Orlando Pirates 2 Vasco Da Gama 0, Bloemfontein Celtic 0 Ajax Cape Town 0, Lamontville Golden Arrows 1 Kaizer Chiefs 2, Maritzburg United 1 AmaZulu 1, Platinum Stars 3 Mpumalanga Black Aces 1, Santos 3 Free State Stars 3, SuperSport United 1 Wits University 2

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