United prepared, hungry

2009-08-07 00:00

WITH a number of new players, Maritzburg United will be a largely unknown quantity at the start of the 2009/10 Premier Soccer League season, and will get an opportunity to gauge their strength in tonight’s opening game against SuperSport United at Woodburn Stadium.

There could not be a better way for a team to test themselves in their first match than against the twice defending champions. United fans will be curious especially to get a look at the team’s new foreign players, Senegalese playmaker Vito Badiane and defender Mor Diouf, and Namibian wing Rudolf Bester.

In comparison to last season’s late start, United coach Gordon Igesund began his pre-season on July 17 and is hopeful that the six weeks he has had to work with the players will lead to greater consistency.

“It’s all systems go,” Igesund said last night. “Everyone’s ready … hungry and everyone wants to play.”

United’s team selection tonight should be fairly straightforward. The wingers seem likely to be Noah Chivuta on the left and Felix Obada on the right, though Chivuta might also be utilised at playmaker, particularly should their be a hitch with Badiane’s documentation. In defensive midfield Musa Nyatama seems likely to get the nod ahead of Lamuxolo Ngalo.

Up-front Fadlu Davids and Brice Aka are likely to resume their partnership from last season.

Elias Ngwepe picks himself at left-back, while James Madidilani might shade last season’s stalwart Peter Petersen for the right-back position. In central defence Igesund must choose between Byrone Hendricks and Diouf to partner captain Bageta Dikilu.

The more experienced Brenden Wardle is likely to start at goalkeeper ahead of Tashrique Goldman.

For SuperSport, Liberian Anthony Laffor, who scored a majestic hat-trick against United in the away league fixture last season, is the dangerman up-front and Glen Salmon’s height can cause problems. Daine Klate is the biggest source of creativity at left wing and defensive midfielder Hlompo Kekana was the unsung hero of last season’s title-winning campaign.

Playmaker Siyabonga Nkosi is still finding his feet again in South Africa, having joined SuperSport from Arminia Bielefeld in Germany, but is a class customer. Bongani Khumalo and Morgan Gould are one of the league’s most solid central defensive combinations.

United got a close look at the league champions when the entire squad viewed SuperSport’s penalties MTN8 quarterfinal defeat to AmaZulu at Chatsworth Stadium on Tuesday night.

“Obviously SuperSport are going to be the team to beat this season,” Igesund said. “They’ve got great players like Siyabonga Nkosi and Daine Klate, their defence is strong and they’ve got big, dangerous strikers like Anthony Laffor and Glen Salmon.

“But we’ve got to think about our own game, and take the game to them on our home ground. We were one of the top goal-scoring teams last season but we also conceded a lot of goals, and hopefully we’ve got that sorted out now.

AmaZulu looked at their best when they attacked and rattled SuperSport, and United might well take a similar approach tonight.

“I thought AmaZulu gave them a little too much respect in the first half but in the second half they got their passing together and really started to trouble SuperSport,” Igesund said. “We’ve got to play the same way, and keep the ball and play it around.”

SuperSport will come into the game determined not to lose two games in a row. United will have a fight on their hands matching the league champions but a positive performance will give a restructured side much hope for the coming season.

• Tickets at Computicket, SuperSave in Retief Street and the club offices in Victoria Road.

Kickoff: 8pm – live on SuperSport 4

Page 25: All the weekend’s fixtures.

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