United ‘need win against Stars’

2009-05-03 00:00

LIKE a troop returning from a mission at the front, Maritzburg are within sight of the safety of base camp but not completely out of danger, following Saturday night’s impressive 3-1 Premier Soccer League victory over Moroka Swallows at Woodburn Stadium.

Had Bloemfontein Celtic lost to Platinum Stars at Free State Stadium yesterday, United would have been home and dry, but Phunya Sele Sele have been in stingy mood and probably saved themselves from relegation with a 2-0 victory.

Now United need two more points from their last two games, against Free State Stars at Woodburn on Wednesday night and Thanda Royal Zulu in Hammarsdale on Saturday, to be completely safe.

A draw on Wednesday might be enough too. That would leave Thanda having to win both their last two games, including beating United on Saturday, to avoid second-last place depending on goal difference. Thanda’s second-last game is against Platinum Stars in Wema near Umlazi.

“It’s a bit of a tricky situation because our goal difference is very bad,” United coach Gordon Igesund said yesterday. “If we draw against Stars and Thanda win, it will come down to needing a point from our last game against a team desperate to win, so rather win on Wednesday.

“We’ve been in good form at home and beaten Ajax, Swallows, Celtic and Santos, so there’s no reason we can’t do it again. But we can’t be complacent — Stars are an in-form team and difficult to play against.”

With United’s steadily improving form, especially at home, it has hardly felt like a relegation battle. While relatively comfortable since a three-match winning streak, United simply haven’t been able to call themselves 100% safe yet.

On Saturday night, the PMB team again scarcely looked like drop candidates with an assured and fired-up domination of a good Gauteng team.

United could have won by a greater margin, particularly had referee Robert Sithole not made an appalling error by not noticing that Swallows ’keeper Greg Etafia had handled outside his area to stop Brice Aka’s 18th-minute effort.

Fadlu Davids’s goals last season were crucial to United’s promotion to the PSL, and on Saturday night he weighed in with a brace that will go a long way to keeping them there. Davids’s scoring performance probably nudged him ahead of Tony Tsabedze, Sylla Mbemba — who scored United’s other goal — Elias Ngwepe and Bageta Dikilu for man of the match.

Swallows looked dangerous early on, but United stepped up the tempo to wrest control. Mbemba headed in Tsabedze’s chip across goal in the 23rd minute after great skill and persistence by the winger on the right.

Davids made it 2-0 in the 37th with a rare long-range effort from the poacher that was well struck and skimmed awkwardly past Etafia.

Swallows pulled a goal back when United keeper Michel Babale was unsighted and remained rooted to the spot as Kagisho Denge’s 30-metre shot appeared to take a deflection.

But United remained in the ascendancy and Davids headed in Tsabedze’s corner in the 75th minute.

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