United prevail in sizzling clash

2012-11-08 00:00

IN the most entertaining football match seen at Harry Gwala stadium this season, Maritzburg United ran out fortunate 2-1 winners over Bloemfontein Celtic in a sizzling PSL clash last night, thanks to two first-half goals from Zimbabwean international Cuthbert Malajila.

That United fought back from being a goal down after just three minutes was tarnished by the events at the end of the match when both coaches, Ernst Middendorp (United) and Clinton Larsen (Celtic), were shown red cards.

Larsen had protested to the fourth official when only three minutes of injury time were given, and then Middendorp protested because Larsen was protesting.

But for the neutral, this only added heat to the already scorching affair as both parties were made to view the rest of the match from the tunnel.

It couldn’t have been a worse start for United, who found themselves 1-0 down before they had even strung two passes together when Celtic striker Lennox Bacela smashed an effort from the left-hand side of the area past Walters.

In wet and miserable conditions in front of a modest crowd, United appeared flat and shell-shocked. And it remained that way for the next 13 minutes as they continued to look jittery at the back.

But when Orlando Smeekes, given his first league start for United, had a blasted free kick deflected in from Malajila, all was well at Harry Gwala again.

That goal settled the Team of Choice, and what followed was a calmer display, with more attacking intent.

In the 25th minute, Malajila scored a goal worthy of winning any game. Receiving a ball from Terrance Mandaza with his back to goal, Malajila expertly turned the Celtic defence in a move that reminded everyone of his ability. After putting himself one-on-one with Celtic keeper Patrick Tignyemb, Malajila then displayed all the composure in the world to sidefoot the ball into the bottom left hand corner.

How Celtic’s Lerato Manzini failed to score just before half time was astonishing, his effort cannoning into Walters’s right hand upright.

The second half saw the game kick into overdrive, with frequent chances at both ends as Celtic pushed forward in search of an equaliser.

Celtic substitute Siyabonga Nontshinga would have two clear-cut chances with only Walters to beat in the dying stages, but the United captain rose to the occasion to keep his side ahead with two fine saves.

Frank Gyamfi came on for United and almost scored with his first touch, before United playmaker Delron Buckley found Smeekes, who had won over the crowd with his direct running, with a superb ball to the back post, but the Dutchman was unable to turn in a difficult chance.

It literally was end-to-end stuff and as chance after chance went a-begging, the tension in the ground began to rise.

When the fourth official indicated that three minutes were added on, the largest firework on the night exploded as both coaches quite literally saw red.

“The opposing coach went to the referee and started questioning the time, you cannot have this,” an infuriated Middendorp explained after the match.

“I was only reacting to this. If this is allowed, then I don’t know where we are; we have a problem.”

Larsen was also asked about the incident.

“I just asked the question. In the second half you had Buckley go down, Walters go down and we were told we would have four minutes,” said the Celtic coach.

“Then Middendorp decided to get involved and we were both sent off … and that’s it.”

Speaking about the entertaining football played on the night, which should have hogged all the headlines, Middendorp was more jovial.

“We can’t always be fantastic and get the three points,” he said.

“But it was the result that we wanted and I felt we created enough chances to score the third goal.”

United must now recuperate for Saturday’s clash with KwaZulu-Natal neighbours Golden Arrows at King Zwelithini Stadium. Kick-off is at 6 pm and the match will not be televised.

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