United outmuscle Pirates

2014-12-03 00:00

MARITZBURG United were simply better than their opposition as they outmuscled Orlando Pirates to win 2-1 at FNB Stadium in a PSL clash last night.

The goals came at either end of the first half courtesy of Ghanaian striker Mohammed Anas, and the result moves United up to third on the league table.

The few supporters who had made their way to the stadium in Soweto barely had time to take their seats before the Team of Choice had rocked Bucs onto the back foot. Khumbulani Banda took a throw in high up the left of the pitch before Thokozani Sekotlong, far too easily from a Pirates perspective, held the ball up and squared it across the face of goal where Anas had made a darting run. The striker obliged and United were surprise leaders.

Pirates were stunned and it took them a bit of time to respond. Kermit Erasmus was selfish at times, his hunger for the back of the net overriding the more logical pass on more than one occasion.

Maritzburg kept up the intensity, with fullbacks Abel Mabaso and Banda pushing up as much as they could whenever possible.

United winger Mondli Cele saw a shot go agonisingly wide on 12 minutes, but the 20 minutes that followed saw the home side dominate. The pressure would tell when Erasmus capitalised on some nifty passing between himself and Thabo Matlaba. The movement gave the Bafana Bafana striker space on the edge of the box, and he duly buried his shot into the bottom left corner to level matters with his fourth goal of the season.

It appeared then that Maritzburg were in for a long, hard final hour. But just as they did at the beginning of the match, they would surprise Pirates once more in first half stoppage time. Again it was Anas, though this time the credit belonged to right winger Cele. The 25-year-old from Port Shepstone showed immense strength to beat the flamboyant Matlaba down the right byline, before playing a simple ball across goal for Anas to benefit from the easiest of tap-ins. That was the last kick of the half, and United went into the break 2-1 up.

Anas was not overly impressed when he was withdrawn on the hour mark for Terrance Mandaza, but Maritzburg were nearly 3-1 up as a result of the move.

With 20 minutes to go it was still Maritzburg asking all of the questions. First, Mandaza and Banda combined to create a fantastic chance with Mhlongo coming off his line, but Pirates scrambled to keep them out. And then Cele, so influential on the night, beat the defensive line before his expertly placed shot drew a superb save from Mhlongo.

That Virgil Vries in the Maritzburg goal did not have to make a save in the second half was indicative of the result being a fair reflection of the game.

“The second half was all about grinding,” Maritzburg coach Steve Komphela said after the match. “The players were willing. You can never go into a game like this without a strong mind.”

Last night’s results

AmaZulu 2 - 1 University of Pretoria

Orlando Pirates 1 - 2 Maritzburg Utd.

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