United focus on away win

2009-09-26 00:00

LAMONTVILLE Golden Arrows will be out to put their cup final jitters behind them when they host Maritzburg United in a Premier Soccer League KZN derby at Chatsworth Stadium this afternoon.

The unusual conundrum for Arrows, who started the season in scintillating form to reach their first-ever final, where they will meet Ajax Cape Town in the MTN8 showdown at Orlando Stadium on October 24, is that it appears to have affected the Durban side’s league form.

Unlike last season, where Arrows were unbeaten in their first nine games, this season they have won just one league match out of seven. Coach Manqoba Mngqithi admitted yesterday the distraction of the MTN8 final might have played a role.

“I would think the cup final has kept them [my players] under pressure,” Mngqithi told Kickoff.com. “You can see there is anxiety to cement their place ahead of the final, while others are not going all out lest they become injured. This is dangerous from a psychological point of view.”

Arrows will strive to settle into their normal fluid, skilful passing rhythm against United today, and if they do, will be a difficult outfit to contain.

United will attempt to counter this with their more direct approach and quick passing game, where wingers Felix Obada and Rudolf Bester have proved a hard pairing to pin down.

By all reports, the Team of Choice came close to bouncing back from their 4-2 defeat at home to Bloemfontein Celtic with a win away to Ajax Cape Town in midweek. Ajax were relieved to earn a draw thanks to Lance Davids’s 80th-minute deflected goal.

“We put that game [against Celtic] behind us very quickly,” United coach Gordon Igesund said yesterday. “Both games we’ve lost this season we’ve been reduced to 10 men.

“I was very happy with the way we responded against Ajax, which was a very tough away game, and while I thought we were unlucky to draw I’m very happy with a point.

“We know Arrows will be another tough game — they’re a very good team with a very good coach. But we’ve also been playing well on the road this season — we’ve drawn against Wits and Ajax and beaten Chiefs, which is a big improvement from our away form last season.”

Igesund said he is not reading too much into Arrows’ indifferent start in the league. The coach will have been pleased with the performance of goalkeeper Tashrique Goldman against Ajax, who pulled off some good saves and could only be beaten by a deflection.

“Tashrique did very well,” Igesund said. “He only had three saves to make and, while they were powerful shots, he made them look easy. We’ve just worked on his distribution a bit this week.”

Obada scored his second goal for United since joining the team from Thanda Royal Zulu in the off-season, in the 18th minute against Ajax.

Igesund said, with striker Fadlu Davids and right-back Peter Petersen “50%” for today, he might rotate a few players. “All my players are firing and, especially with so many games on top of each other, I’ll give some players a chance,” he said.

For Arrows, dangerous wingers Philani Shange and Njabulo Manqana, and prolific striker Richard Henyekane, form a potentially destructive front-line ahead of a strong creative midfielder in Thanduyise Khuboni, and solid backline marshalled by Siyabonga Sangweni and captain Joseph Musonda.

Today’s league match was originally scheduled to open Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban on October 29, but has been brought forward because of the rescheduling of the MTN8 final due to Ajax having four players in the SA team currently doing duty in the U20 World Cup in Egypt.

On TV

Kickoff: 3.30 pm – live on SABC1

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