A crucial win for United

2013-04-01 00:00

THE Zimbabwean connection of strikers Cuthbert Malajila and Terrance Mandaza secured Maritzburg United a crucial 2-0 win over PSL strugglers Chippa United in an enthralling clash at Harry Gwala Stadium yesterday afternoon.

Malajila and Mandaza scored and created a goal each in the second half to ensure a victory that takes United to seventh position in the league standings — three points ahead of Moroka Swallows in ninth.

It is not often that Mandaza and Malajila get to strike together, with Ernst Middendorp generally preferring a lone striker in his team selection. It was no different yesterday and Mandaza started on the bench as Malajila was given the responsibility of spearheading United’s attack.

With Chippa desperate for points in their fight against relegation and Middendorp promising an all-out attacking display from his side in the build- up to the match, yesterday’s clash was always going to be entertaining.

Middendorp stayed true to his word by selecting a pacey starting line-up, with Rheece Evans starting ahead of Peter Petersen at right back, Namibian Heinrich Isaacks returning at right wing and the hot-headed Ryan de Jongh getting a call up in central midfield.

But it was from the left flank where United threatened most in the first half, where the link-up play between Dillon Sheppard and Delron Buckley was mature and dangerous.

Just five minutes in, Buckley received a masterful one-touch ball from Sheppard to be put one-on-one with former Team of Choice shot-stopper Tashrique Goldman.

With all of the time in the world, Buckley did well to beat Goldman from the left side of goal, but his driven effort crashed into the right hand upright to leave Harry Gwala in a state of disbelief.

Chippa were disjointed throughout the match, lacking cohesion, structure and any fight.

But were it not for a sublime reflex save from United captain Shu-Aib Walters in the 22nd minute, United would have gone 1-0 down through a powerful Welcome Qalanto header.

That moment appeared to wake the United defence up, and a much more disciplined showing was on offer from the back four for the rest of the afternoon.

With the end-to-end first half yielding no goals, both managers made attacking tactical substitutions at half time.

Middendorp sent on Mandaza for De Jongh, making his intentions of finding a goal abundantly clear.

United were nearly ahead after 52 minutes when a fine save from Goldman high and to his left denied a curled free kick from Sheppard.

For all of United’s dominance, they battled to manufacture clear-cut chances and Chippa were always dangerous on the counterattack.

But to Middendorp’s credit, he never once settled for a point and when Evans — who had been moved to right wing — galloped down the flank to coolly square the ball to Malajila in the area, United fans knew something was about to happen. Malajila loaded for a shot and then, to everybody’s surprise, stepped over the ball to leave it for Mandaza behind him.

One touch was all the substitute needed before burying the ball past a helpless Goldman to send the spectators ballistic in the 76th minute.

The celebrations hadn’t even begun to subside before the Zimbabwean duo were at it again.

A minute later, Malajila played a delightful ball to Mandaza who held up play and drew the entire Chippa defence towards him before somehow squeezing the ball back to Malajila.

United’s top scorer this season was never going to miss from there, and Malajila calmly placed the ball into the bottom right hand corner to secure all three points for United.

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