United show signs of progress

2010-10-25 00:00

AS a rehabilitation process goes, Maritzburg United continued to show promising signs in yesterday’s 2-1 Telkom Knockout first round victory against Bloemfontein Celtic at Seisa Ramabodu Stadium.

After four matches without a win, United now have two in succession following last week’s 1-0 league victory against Moroka Swallows at Harry Gwala Stadium, and one of these has come on the road at a tough venue against well-supported opposition.

While yesterday’s storms and showers that dotted the interior might have kept some of Celtic’s normally vociferous home support away, the Free Staters remain difficult away opponents to beat.

But United’s confidence has been on the rise since notching up that all-important first victory of the season last Friday. Yesterday the Team of Choice gave Celtic much more of a game of it than they had in a 2-0 league defeat at the same venue a month ago.

And while the goal that secured their victory in the 89th minute from Musa Nyatama might have arrived in fortuitous fashion, with the midfielder’s shot taking a wicked deflection, United will feel they did enough to unnerve Celtic on their home ground, and ultimately deserved victory.

United are now the lone KwaZulu-Natal team to fly the province’s flag in the competition following Saturday results that saw Lamontville Golden Arrows lose 1-0 to Orlando Pirates at Chatsworth Stadium and Kaizer Chiefs beat AmaZulu 2-0 at Moses Mabhida Stadium.

A first half where United weathered an early storm, with young Bloem striker Luyanda Bacela heading on to the upright from a corner, at one stage looked like it might end with Maritzburg 1-0 leaders at the break.

After surviving their scare, the visiting team worked themselves into the game and opened the scoring when Diyo Sibisi rose unmarked to expertly head in Felix Obada’s cross from the right in the 25th minute.

Celtic appeared at a loss for a means to come up with an equaliser, though in the end were gifted one when Maritzburg defender Fabian McCarthy, still showing the effects of an extended period on the sidelines for Swallows last season, missed a challenge that allowed Bacela into the area on the left.

The Celtic striker took his chance well, sliding his shot from a narrow angle past oncoming goalkeeper Shu-aib Walters in the 41st minute.

If Celtic had shaded play in the first half, then it was Maritzburg who were dominant in the second.

Right-wing Obada has had a tough start to the season, where a lack of form has seen the pacy Nigerian going to ground easily, running into defenders and not producing a final pass.

The United winger approached something like his old self yesterday and, after having provided the cross for the opener, troubled the Celtic defence, earning free-kicks around the area and stretching the home team’s back four. The Nigerian was through on goal in the 66th minute, but blasted wide.

It was a piece of skill, though, from United’s winger on the opposite side of the field, Rudolf Bester, that set up Nyatama’s winner. The Namibian beat a Celtic defender into the area and fed Nyatama alongside him, with the United playmaker’s shot taking a deflection that left Celtic goalkeeper Patrick Tignyemb stranded.

United will need all the confidence they can get because their next two league matches, away to Platinum Stars (Saturday) and at home to SuperSport United (October 10), will take maximum effort to get points from.

Sapa reports that in yesterday’s other Telkom Knockout match Wits University have only themselves to blame for crashing out in the first round 1-0 to defensive Santos at Milpark.

The goal that sent the People’s Team into the quarter-finals was scored by Graham King in the 69th minute. The not-so-Clever Boys created countless chances and should have wrapped up the match in the first half. But with Santos on the rack, Wits failed to capitalise.

Telkom Knockout first round

Saturday: SuperSport United 1 Vasco Da Gama 0, AmaZulu 0 Kaizer Chiefs 2, Platinum Stars 0 Mamelodi Sundowns 1, Lamontville Golden Arrows 0 Orlando Pirates 1

Yesterday: Wits University 0 Santos 1, Bloemfontein Celtic 1 Maritzburg United 2

Wednesday: Ajax Cape Town v Free State Stars (Athlone Stadium, 7.30 pm), Moroka Swallows v Mpumalanga Black Aces (Dobsonville Stadium, 8 pm)

More Telkom Knockout, page 19.

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