Why David can defeat Goliath

2010-09-06 00:00

IN terms of infrastructure, pedigree and financial and player resources, there can be no doubt who will be filling the role of David when Maritzburg United take on the proverbial Goliath of South African football at Harry Gwala Stadium on Wednesday night.

On form there is little to separate the teams at this foetal stage of the new Premier Soccer League season.

Kaizer Chiefs started their season with a 2-0 win over Lamontville Golden Arrows at the Rand Stadium last Saturday. The next day at Moses Mabhida Stadium, Maritzburg came within seconds of earning an away draw against AmaZulu, before Ayanda Dlamini’s late winner in a 3-2 victory to Usuthu.

The continuity in the squads and coaching staff of the two teams means both will be looking for an improvement on relatively promising campaigns in 2009/10, which should make for a fast-paced, exciting game on Harry Gwala’s world-class pitch in the charged atmosphere of a sell-out night game.

Maritzburg, too, will know from past experience, and perhaps from biblical reference too, that Davids do not always come out second best when confronted with Goliaths.

United have managed three impressive victories against Amakhosi in their four seasons in the PSL.

The first was a 1-0 win in 2005/06 that was instrumental in United (then called Classic), going on to survive relegation by a point. Ironically, the result also put paid to Chiefs’ chances of winning the league in current United coach Ernst Middendorp’s first season at Amakhosi, as the Jo’burg team went on to finish third.

In 2008/09 United beat Chiefs 3-2 at Chatsworth Stadium in a foul-tempered game, where Amakhosi striker Tshepo Bulu’s nose was broken by the elbow of United defender Gary Goldstone.

Last season United managed their first away victory against Chiefs, 2-1 at Orlando Stadium, with an inspired performance for Gordon Igesund’s second victory over Amakhosi as coach of Maritzburg. The match featured Rudolf Bester’s long-range strike, which was voted PSL goal of the season.

Among these victories have been some heavy defeats, notably in United’s woeful 2006/07 relegation season, where the PMB side were thrashed 6-1 by Amakhosi at Loftus in what proved to be coach Kosta Papic’s last game in charge. In the return, Papic, who had moved to Chiefs, led Amakhosi to a 3-0 win over already relegated United in the only meeting between the sides at Harry Gwala ahead of Wednesday night’s game.

United have a decent record against both the Soweto giants, having also beaten Orlando Pirates twice — under Papic in 2006 at Chatsworth Stadium (1-0) and last season’s roundly praised victory at Harry Gwala (2-1) under Middendorp.

Yet while the PMB team seem capable of holding their own against the big Johannesburg teams, their record against SA’s two other current powerhouse clubs, SuperSport United and Mamelodi Sundowns, remains woeful.

Last season United drew 1-1 at home and lost 3-2 away against SuperSport, and in 2008/09 the PMB team were thrashed 5-0 away and lost 3-1 at home. Against Sundowns, United lost 5-1 at home and 1-0 away last season, and 3-0 both home and away in 2008/09.

United captain Fadlu Davids, explaining the team’s good performances against the Soweto giants, said yesterday,“When you play Chiefs, they draw a bigger crowd and there’s no extra motivation needed, and it’s the same with Pirates — especially when we play Bucs in Pietermaritzburg. And it gives the players a lift for a big game.

“Maritzburg as a team always consists of young and hungry players, and doing well against bigger teams can open doors.

“As to why we don’t do well against Sundowns and SuperSport, that’s something of a mystery to me.”

Davids said he expects a fast-paced game on Wednesday.

“Chiefs are a bit sharper at the start of the season than most teams because they have played in more friendlies, the Telkom Charity Cup and in the MTN8.

“We didn’t have the best start against AmaZulu — but we did also lose three key players [Bester, Kurt Lentjies and Felix Obada] through injury during the game which did take the wind out of our sails.”

United’s central defence, shaky against AmaZulu, has been significantly boosted by Ghanaian John Arwuah’s work permit coming through on Friday. Right-back Peter Petersen is hopeful to return from a groin strain.

Lentjies has been passed fit and Bester and Obada are both under “intensive treatment”, according to United CEO Afzal Khan.

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