‘Visitors deserved win’

2012-11-03 00:00

MARITZBURG United’s Telkom Knockout hopes were dashed last night when they were beaten 2-0 by Gavin Hunt’s SuperSport United in a quarter-final tie on a cold night at Harry Gwala stadium. Second-half goals from Thabiso Nkoana (73rd) and Sibusiso Zuma (77th) were enough to ensure that Maritzburg have now failed to beat SuperSport in 13 attempts.

Team of Choice coach Ernst Middendorp started the match with a largely predictable lineup. The now familiar back four of Peter Petersen, Mohamed Awal, Mario Booysen and Ruben Cloete shielded goalkeeper Shu-Aib Walters. Byron Hendricks maintained his position in holding midfield and the only changes from the side that drew 1-1 with Kaizer Chiefs a week earlier saw Mthokozisi Yende and Terrance Mandaza start ahead of Ryan de Jongh and in-form local favourite Philani Zulu.

It was a first half in which Maritzburg were typically resilient at the back, though there were a few heart-in-mouth moments in a half that the visitors ever so slightly edged.

SuperSport’s lively midfielder Kermit Erasmus was a handful for Maritzburg for much of the half, and almost opened the scoring in the 13th minute when he headed a freekick agonisingly close to Walters’ left hand upright despite being one of the smallest players on the field.

In the 20th minute, Petersen went down with what appeared to be a pulled muscle.

Though he tried to run it off, Middendorp was forced to replace his rightback with the versatile Rheece Evans.

After that it was all a little cagey with not many scoring opportunities on either side.

Erasmus would have another couple of half chances and Maritzburg’s orchestrator Delron Buckley came close from distance.

But the chance of the half fell to the home side on 40 minutes when 18-year-old Ghanaian winger Frank Gyamfi displayed sublime skill and then technique to pick out Booysen with a cross after the defender had stayed up for a set piece. But Booysen, unmarked and from almost point blank range, was unable to deflect his header anywhere near the goal.

In the second half an Erasmus-fuelled SuperSport looked dangerous, with the winger causing continuous problems for Evans down the left flank.

But Maritzburg did a good job of absorbing the pressure, and almost shocked SuperSport on the counter when Buckley expertly picked out a Cuthbert Malajila run, but the ZimbaBwean striker scuffed his effort straight at goalkeeper Ronwen Williams.

The game opened up after that, and as the pace picked up, Middendorp turned to Zulu in favour of Gyamfi much to the delight of the Harry Gwala faithful.

SuperSport’s opener came when Awal misplaced a pass straight to the feet of Erasmus, who made a run through the middle of the park. His ball split the Maritzburg defence and found striker Thabiso Nkaona, who chipped delicately over a charging Walters to put the visitors up.

When Sibusiso Zuma took advantage of an unlucky yet disastrous piece of defending from substitute Evans and rounded Walters to put his side 2-0 up just four minutes later, the game was over as a contest and the crowd was silenced somewhat.

Middendorp was clearly a figure of disappointment after the match, but acknowledged that the better side on the day left victorious.

“SuperSport completely deserved this victory and to go through to the first round,” he said.

The coach added that being forced to bring Evans on for Petersen had nothing to do with his side losing.

“Rheece is a young player, but it [the loss] had nothing to do with the injury,” said Middendorp. “Our performance was simply not good enough on the day.”

United are next in action when they play Bloemfontein Celtic in a PSL clash on Wednesday night at Harry Gwala.

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