A clash of fairytales looms

2012-11-27 00:00

THE Ernst Middendorp fairytale continued on Saturday night as the Team of Choice recorded their sixth win of the season with their 3-1 win over Moroka Swallows in Soweto.

The victory cements Maritzburg United’s third place on the PSL table. Remarkably, they have now drawn five matches and have only tasted league defeat once this season.

But any football critic who is struggling to explain United’s success may only have to look at the Zimbabwean connection for a clue.

Both Cuthbert Malajila and Terrance Mandaza found the back of the net on Saturday, and the pair has now scored nine goals between them (Malajila six, Mandaza three).

Perhaps even more encouraging than the goals is the visible improvement in the understanding between the two players.

Saturday’s victory showed the pair making some intelligent runs off each other and Mandaza believes that these are encouraging signs for the team moving forward.

“The partnership is working very well. Our understanding is growing and I am sure that it will keep getting better,” the Zimbabwe international told The Witness yesterday.

While the substance of Saturday’s win may be questioned given that Swallows were made to play three quarters of the match with 10 men, Mandaza believes that the win was just as difficult to achieve as any other.

“Sometimes it is even more difficult to play against 10 men because you know the side will work even harder to close the gaps and not concede,” he said. “They [Swallows] are a good side and we had to play very well to beat them.”

Saturday night also saw a return to the sidelines for United coach Ernst Middendorp, who had been suspended for his side’s previous two matches.

Having the aggressive German back in the thick of things certainly helped United’s cause, said Mandaza.

“When the coach is on the sidelines he makes us push more,” he said.

Squad harmony is always at an optimum when a team is winning games, and Mandaza confirmed that the United camp at the moment were loving their football.

“When we were on our way there, we were thinking that we would be happy with a draw,” he said. “But to win the match with three goals has boosted our morale.”

But there won’t be too much time for celebrations. Next up for Middendorp is a tough fixture at home to the other form side in the PSL right now, Platinum Stars.

Stars on Saturday had their own fairtale win when they became the first side this season to defeat Kaizer Chiefs and they are now just a point behind United, making next Tuesday’s clash at Harry Gwala all the more important.

“It is a very big game for us but we are playing well enough to approach it with confidence and go for a win,” said Mandaza.

On his own chances of impacting on that game, the Zimbabwean remains grounded.

“It is all up to the coach. He could decide to use a different game plan and other players. I have to just keep showing him in training that I deserve to be chosen.”

Next Tuesday’s match kicks off at 7.30 pm and will not be televised.

• sport@witness.co.za

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