United slump at home

2011-12-01 00:00

MARITZBURG United fans were treated to PSL football at the Harry Gwala stadium for the first time in two months last night, but they left despondent after Ian Palmer’s men slumped to a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Free State Stars.

There was a goal in each half for the visitors, the first from Edward Manqele and the second from Katlego Mashego in stoppage time.

The city had clearly missed their football as a large crowd made their way to the stadium on a warm Maritzburg evening.

But they would not have been happy with what they saw in the first half as Stars took control of the game by starving United of the ball in the early stages.

With striker Diyo Sibisi in the starting line-up after recovering from his recurring ankle injury, United were hopeful of putting their worries in front of goal to bed.

United looked like scoring in the 10th minute when midfielder Kurt Lentjies got on the end of a Prince Olomu flick on, but an off-balance Lentjies fired his effort over the Free State goal.

That would be as close as United came in a half where they battled to string passes together in the right half of the field.

Michael Morton worked tirelessly in central midfield, but the support from Lentjies was not enough to prevent Stars from bossing the middle of the park.

United paid the ultimate price for their inability to keep the ball on 19 minutes, when Manqele was the recipient of impressive work from Mashego down the right hand side of the 18 yard area. With his back to goal, Manqele turned and drilled a shot at United goalkeeper Shu-Aib Walters from close range, leaving him with no chance and putting Stars 1-0 up.

United winger Morné Davids did try and place a shot to the right of Stars keeper Kennedy Mweene, but his shot missed low and to the left and United would not threaten for the rest of the half.

In the second half Palmer replaced the ineffective Lentjies with the energetic JB Ncubeni.

It appeared that Lentjies had injured his shoulder before the break when he went crashing into the advertising boards during a challenge.

Ncubeni added much-needed impetus to the United attack, though Stars did spend much of the second period sitting back and inviting United to attack as they protected their lead.

The display after half time was much improved from the hosts, but still they were unable to find a way past Mweene.

After a slick sequence of pas­ses between Ncubeni and Olomu, Davids was in a promising position left of goal, but he smashed his shot over the bar on 54 minutes.

With United very firmly on the front foot, Morton got the slightest of touches on a Felix Obada cross 10 minutes later. The ball collided with a sprinting Sibisi, who didn’t know too much about it after being wrong-footed by Morton’s touch, and his effort went wide and to the left.

Wayne Matle came on for a shattered Sibisi and made an immediate impact. A good touch by the former Kaizer Chiefs man played Obada in down the right flank, whose inch-perfect cross was met by the head of Olomu.

The Nigerian, who had said that he would score his first goal in United colours last night, almost justified his bold statement but his header was spectacularly saved by a diving Mweene on 71 minutes.

United brought on young striker Renaldo Donnelly in the final 10 minutes in a last-gasp effort to salvage the match.

They continued to pile on pressure, but with men thrown forward in search of the equaliser, United were caught on the break and Mashego made no mistake one-on-one against Walters to make it 2-0.

United next face AmaZulu in Sunday’s KZN derby in Durban.

• sports@witness.co.za

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