United have to keep Malajila quiet

2013-12-20 00:00

MARITZBURG United are on a run of five consecutive defeats, and tonight, they head to Loftus Versfeld to try and turn their season around against Mamelodi Sundowns, currently the best team in the land.

It won’t be an easy task for a Team of Choice currently lacking in form — but not in confidence — to perform a smash and grab and come home with all the points in their must-win PSL encounter against the league leaders.

The Brazilians have been lethal up front, scoring at a rate of two goals a game, and their chief goal-getter has been the prolific Cuthbert Malajila, who they signed from United at the end of last season after he set the league alight.

Due to his goals, United spent most of last season hovering in the top five, and he has been sorely missed this season, as the player who was brought in to replace him has found the back of the net just once.

Clinton Larsen’s boys will be outmatched in all areas of the park against a Sundowns team sheet that reads like something out of a fantasy novel.

Thanks to Patrice Motsepe’s chequebook, coach Pitso Mosimane has a squad that most coaches in the PSL would envy.

While United are currently experiencing another injury crisis that has robbed them of senior players such as Delron Buckley, Robyn Johannes, Peter Petersen and Ashley Hartog, the mighty Pretoria club have at least two quality players in each position.

For United to get any points from the game, they will have to shut out Sundowns’ midfield from creating chances for Malajila.

Larsen has said time and time again he would rather go down trying to win a game than shut up shop and play conservatively. But, he might have to reconsider that against Sundowns. Taking them on with their own type of football would be suicide.

Zimbabwean Khama Billiat has been brilliant this season since he joined Sundowns from Ajax Cape Town and seems to have recreated the kind of telepathic link up he had with Thulani Serero at the Cape Town club with former United man Malajila.

Sundowns’ midfield also includes players like superstar Teko Modise, wunderkind Bongani Zungu, Dowe Wome, Elias Pelembe, Hlompho Kekana … the list is endless.

Along with Malajila up front, they also have Katlego Mashego and Anthony Laffor keeping Katlego Mphela out of the team.

Skipper Alje Schut has been solid this season at the back next to Ghanaian Rashid Sumaila, Tebogo Langerman and Pietermaritzburg’s Bryce Moon. Zambian number one Kenedy Mweene has also had a good season, keeping Bafana Bafana’s Wayne Sandilands and Belgian Glenn Verbauwhede on the sidelines.

Some good news for Larsen will be the return of Mario Booysen who will be back with his regular defensive partner, Ghanaian Mohammed Awal.

The absence of the tall defender meant that the Team of Choice didn’t give the Clever Boys too much trouble with set pieces due to the presence of the almost two-metre beanpole Matthew Booth.

United skipper Michael Morton will have to rally his troops throughout and repeat his performance when they went down to Orlando Pirates if they are to return to Pietermaritzburg with the three points.

Thokozani Sekotlong, who scored a beauty in Monday’s 3-1 loss to Wits to become the club’s top goalscorer, will need to raise his performance, which has not been at the same level it was earlier in the season, and during their last league win against AmaZulu two months ago.

Speaking to The Witness on Wednesday, winger Orlando Smeekes said they were confident they had the quality in the squad to turn things around, and coach Larsen has also said that they were targeting the three points which would put them on 15 points before they go on a three week Christmas break.

This is a game that Maritzburg United cannot afford to lose. But, to come out with a result, whether it be one point or three, they will need to literally play out of their socks.

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