United get win, Amazulu and Arrows pounded

2014-03-24 00:00

DURBAN’S two PSL clubs both went crashing out of the Nedbank Cup on Saturday while Maritzburg United gave KwaZulu-Natal something to cheer about when they edged Platinum Stars via a penalty shootout at Moruleng Stadium to advance to the tournament’s quarter-finals.

AmaZulu and Golden Arrows were both thrashed 4-1 at home, by Wits and Mamelodi Sundowns respectively.

A Heinrich Isaacks equaliser for United after good work from winger Orlando Smeekes cancelled out Issa Sa’s first half header for Stars, and the sides finished the 90 minutes locked at 1-1.

On a hot and dry Rustenburg afternoon, United boss Steve Komphela was rocked by on-field injuries to Ghanaian defender Mohamed Awal and then to Smeekes. But before the latter had left the field he helped United level matters and ensure that they have now scored in all eight competitive matches under Komphela.

With extra time not providing any goals, the match went to spot kicks, where Namibian goalkeeper Virgil Vries – given a rare start by Komphela – pulled off two saves to be the hero and send United into Thursday’s draw for the last eight.

Komphela had rested a large number of his regular first team players – including goalkeeper Shu-Aib Walters – after an intense period of league fixtures, and man-of-the-match Vries took his chance to impress with arms wide open.

“This was a very important game for me and I had to take the opportunity the coach gave me,” he said after being mobbed by his team following the shoot-out. “I had to repay him for having that belief in me.”

Vries was also influential during the 120 minutes, pulling off a string of fine saves throughout the match, but United’s cause was aided by Stars’ Siphelele Mthembu, who had three golden one-on-one chances but could convert none of them.

“I think Siphelele was just unlucky on the day. He tried everything – shots, rounding the keeper and all that – but it wasn’t to be,” acknowledged Komphela. “I must compliment Platinum Stars. They gave it their all.”

Turning his focus on his own side, Komphela was thrilled with what he saw.

“We kept good possession and we had a good feel and understanding of the state of the game, when to immediately attack and when to slow things down,” United’s mentor said. “When we went to penalties I thought that it might just be our day, and so it was.”

The extent of the injury to Smeekes, who has been one of United’s form players in recent week, will be of major concern to Komphela and the rest of the squad.

NEDBANK CUP LAST 16 RESULTS

Yesterday:

Celtic 2 - 1 Spurs

African Warriors 1 - 0 Milano United

Saturday:

Golden Arrows 1 – 4 Mamelodi Sundowns

Platinum Stars 1 (1) – (3) 1 Maritzburg United

AmaZulu 1 – 4 Wit.

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