United fail to keep lead

2015-02-11 00:00

MARITZBURG United’s poor home form in the PSL continued last night when they went down 2-1 to Wits at Harry Gwala Stadium.

It all appeared to be going according to the desired script after Mohammed Anas had ­given the Team of Choice a 1-0 lead on 19 minutes, but goals from Thulani Hlatshwayo and Fikru Lemessa turned the tables.

Wits fielded three members of the Bafana Bafana’s Afcon 2015 squad in centre back Hlatshwayo, fullback Siyabonga Nhlapo and attacker Sibusiso Vilakazi.

Maritzburg coach Steve Komphela, ­meanwhile, went with a starting 11 that was instantly recognisable from 2014.

As has become the norm in the PSL, the first 15 minutes saw both sides not giving anything away as they sought to figure each other out tactically.

A well-orchestrated free-kick from Jabulani Shongwe set up Sandile Zuke on three ­minutes, but the midfielder misdirected his shot to the right of Virgil Vries in the ­Maritzburg goal.

The home side gradually got hold of more ball, but they were unable to create any ­chances in the opening 15 minutes.

But on 19 minutes Ghanaian Mohammed Anas had Harry Gwala rocking. The ball fell to him on the left hand side of the pitch after a throw in, and he moved with it to the edge of the 18-yard area before blasting his shot away. It seemed like the effort was hit straight at Josephs, but the former Orlando Pirates shot-stopper was far too late in getting his hands up as United went 1-0 up.

It didn’t last long. Wits responded well to the goal and they were rewarded for their ­efforts on 28 minutes. Veteran striker Henrico Botes saw a shot from inside the area tipped onto the crossbar by Vries, but Hlatshwayo was first to react to the rebound before ­stabbing the ball home to make it 1-1.

United nearly had their lead back just five minutes later. A pin-point cross from Khumbulani Banda down the left flank had the Wits defence scrambling, and they were unable to clear their lines. The ball dropped for Mondli Cele, who has been in inspiring form for United all season, but his powerful effort was met by a sprawled Josephs who bravely put his body on the line.

It looked as if the sides would go into the break level, but on the stroke of half time Wits took the lead.

Fikru Lemessa was given far too much space and time to align himself with Nhlapo’s cross from the right, and his powerful header left Vries with no chance at all.

At the start of the second half the team crawled back into their tactical shells — ­Maritzburg seemingly caught in two minds ­between looking for the equaliser and denying Wits a third goal.

It could have been 3-1 on 53 minutes, but an alert Vries was on hand to keep out a close snap shot from Botes.

It all got a bit messy. Maritzburg became desperate and tried to get the ball forward at every interval, but Wits were compact as their defensive structures held firm and Maritzburg struggled to create any threatening opportunities.

There was a glimmer of hope for the Team of Choice on 81 minutes when Anas appeared to have been put through one on one against Josephs, but the goalkeeper was quick to come off his line and hack the ball away into the grandstand.

Right back Abel Mabaso then had a shot from an acute angle well stopped by Josephs in the dying stages.

That was as close as Maritzburg would come in the final minutes, and they must now go back to the drawing board in an attempt to rediscover their form of 2014 ahead of Saturday’s trip to Chippa United.

Last night’s results

University of Pretoria 2 - 1 Chippa United

Mamelodi Sundowns 4 - 1 Moroka Swallows

Maritzburg Utd 1 - 2 Bidvest Wits

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