United keen to show who’s boss

2010-04-17 00:00

MARITZBURG United will be out to reestablish their dominance over KwaZulu-Natal neighbours AmaZulu in tonight’s Nedbank Cup first round tie at Harry Gwala Stadium.

United suffered their first-ever defeat to AmaZulu in the first round of the Telkom Knockout last month, 1-0 thanks to Dumisani Ngwenya’s first-half strike.

While the Team of Choice had a legitimate goal disallowed in that game, where replays showed Mario Booysen’s header had clearly crossed the line after cannoning off the crossbar, AmaZulu were the side who showed the greater hunger and ultimately deserved their victory.

Before that Usuthu had not managed a win against Maritzburg, losing five times and drawing once in six league meetings.

United will hope their home ground advantage tonight can help them reassert their authority. But to do that the PMB team have to overcome a dry spell in front of goal that has seen them go their last three games scoreless.

The loss to injury of hard-working captain Fadlu Davids, United’s top scorer with seven goals, has clearly affected the team’s punch up-front.

Apart from Davids, United will also miss the steadying presence at the back of on-form goalkeeper Shu-aib Walters, who is on duty in the Bafana Bafana training camp in Germany. Maritzburg will look for a solid performance from replacement Tashrique Goldman between the posts.

The Nedbank Cup is the knockout tournament where United have had the most success in their four seasons in the Premier Soccer League.

In 2006 the Team of Choice reached the semi-finals in an inspired run under Mlungisi “Professor” Ngubane, where they lost 2-1 to Orlando Pirates at Loftus. Last season United reached the quarter-finals under Gordon Igesund, where they lost 2-0 to Moroka Swallows, after beating Thanda Royal Zulu and Santos in the early rounds.

Having never reached the PSL’s top eight, United have yet to compete in the MTN8, while they have not gone past the first round in the Telkom.

Not that history or statistics will count for much tonight when there are 22 players facing up against each other at Harry Gwala.

With Brice Aka having largely been ineffective at striker in the absence of Davids, United coach Ernst Middendorp must be tempted to give a run to the under-utilised Collen Zimba to provide some creative spark up-front.

The coach too, might consider letting 18-year-old winger Jabulani “JB” Ncubeni, another player who has barely featured this season, have a run off the bench following his goal-scoring heroics for the SA Under-20s against Brazil and Nigeria in a four-nations tournament in Cape Town in the past week.

Mostly though, it is up to the experienced forward trio of Felix Obada, Rudolf Bester and Kurt Lentjies to gel together in the same manner as when United were on a hot streak in the league in December and February, and produce goals again for the Team of Choice.

AmaZulu will look to their dangerous strike partnership of Ayanda Dlamini and Ngwenya to trouble the United defence.

Creative midfield dynamo Litha Ngxab­i has had a good season too, and the runs of spritely, intelligent wing-back Thabo Mabaso can be difficult to guard against.

Following their Telkom win against United, AmaZulu progressed to the semi-finals where a depleted team lost 2-0 away to Ajax Cape Town. Neil Tovey’s troops have had a strong second half of the season that has seen AmaZulu win 10 and draw three of their last 17 league and cup games.

Maritzburg have probably their best squad yet since competing in the PSL, and a coach in Middendorp the players have raved about since his arrival in November.

Both sides will be determined to progress far in the Nedbank, which will make for a characteristically competitive KZN derby tonight.

ON TV

Kick-off: 8.15 pm – live on SuperSport 4

More Nedbank Cup: page 46

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