United v Bucs: Harry Gwala this time

2010-11-26 00:00

ORLANDO Pirates are likely to rest four key players in their Premier Soccer League game against Maritzburg United at Harry Gwala Stadium tonight.

With the Buccaneers engaged in what will be one of the biggest domestic cup finals in recent history, the Telkom Knockout last game against arch-rivals Kaizer Chiefs on December 4, it seems highly unlikely coach Ruud Krol will field four of his major players tonight who are on two yellow cards.

A third yellow for any one of goalkeeper Moeneeb Josephs, midfielders Andile Jali and Daine Klate, or defender Rooi Mahamutsa would mean an automatic one-match suspension and missing next week’s Soweto Derby final at FNB Stadium.

Put together, the four represent possibly the core and the driving force of Krol’s current line-up, one that has managed some impressive results this season, such as their 3-0 league wins against Ajax Cape Town and SuperSport United, and victory by the same margin in Sunday’s Telkom semi-final against a fired-up Maritzburg in Chatsworth.

Pirates have been in mostly very strong form, though they have also managed some mediocre results in amongst the gems, such as a 1-0 defeat to Mpumalanga Black Aces and their 3-1 loss to Chiefs in the league Soweto Derby just under a fortnight ago.

Both United and Pirates might hope that the emphasis is more on football than politics in tonight’s league rematch of Sunday’s ill-tempered semi.

Maritzburg’s players took a lot of passion and emotion into the Telkom last-four match, however, once the game started to turn against them these ran too high.

Angry that the semi-final had been moved by the PSL from their Harry Gwala home ground, United lost focus, and then the match. They will be trying not to allow the same to happen tonight as they attempt to demonstrate that a home semi would have been a much closer-run affair.

United, in fact, won the corresponding fixture last year, by a 2-1 margin.

The PMB team could desperately do with some points as their cup heroics — beating Bloemfontein Celtic away in the first round before a first victory ever (2-0) over Mamelodi Sundowns at Harry Gwala in the quarters — have not had much impact on Maritzburg’s 14th league position.

Pirates have as much reason to want to notch up points, as their slow start and defeats against Aces and Chiefs see the Bucs languishing in eighth, despite their at times stirring form.

To balance their rested players, Pirates have defenders Happy Jele and captain Lucky Lekgwathi back from suspension.

Lekgwathi said he expects Pirates to be tested all the way by United tonight.

“We did well against United, but on Friday we will have to up our game if we are to beat them the second time round,” the Bucs captain wrote in his column on the club’s website.

“Obviously, they are upset after losing to us in the cup and now they will have more reason to exact revenge on us.

“I personally have respect for Maritzburg United. The players are very competitive and it’s a side that cannot be underestimated. But having said that we are a team on a mission to collect three points and we will do everything in our power to ensure that happens on Friday night.”

Pirates also have promising striker Chiukepo Msowoya available, having arrived too late for Sunday’s semi from international duty for Malawi.

United failed to pick up dangerous and improving man mountain Nigerian forward Ezenwa Otorogu on Sunday. If Otorogu and Msowoya are paired up-front tonight, the Maritzburg defence will have to do a far better job marking the danger pair.

Tonight: Ajax Cape Town v Wits University (Newlands, 8 pm), Maritzburg United v Orlando Pirates (Harry Gwala Stadium, 8 pm — live on SuperSport 4)

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