A spirited United draw with Wits

2011-08-15 00:00

A SPIRITED Maritzburg United came from behind twice to earn a 2-2 draw against Bidvest Wits in their PSL season opener at the Harry Gwala stadium yesterday.

It was the home side that started the game on the front foot in front of less than 1 000 supporters who braved the cold and wet weather.

New signing Prince Olomu came close to a dream start in United colours when, inside the first minute, he found himself on the end of an inch-perfect Diyo Sibisi cross from the left hand side of the field, only to see his headed effort canon into the left upright.

United would continue to dominate the opening quarter of the game, with Sibisi causing a few problems for the Wits defender.

Ex-Bafana and Maritzburg-born Mbulelo “OJ” Mabizela was caught out a few times in the early part of the match with a few lazy passes.

Mabizela and the rest of the Wits defence would settle into the match, though, and Maritzburg would have to wait until the 28th minute before their next real look at goal.

It came in the form of a Felix Obada crack from 35 yards, which was unconvincingly dealt with by Wits keeper Emille Baron.

A minute later and completely against the run of play, Wits took the lead. Ironically, it was Mabizela who took advantage of some poor defending from United to tap in a cross from a Frabicio Rodrigues free kick and put the Clever Boys into the lead. Mabizela had found himself completely unmarked at the back post and it all seemed too easy for him to score.

United appeared shell-shocked after the goal and would go into half time one down and without looking like a side capable of mounting a comeback.

In the second half it was Obada who looked most dangerous and after some nifty work on the right hand touchline, he played Sibisi in on goal only to see the former Ajax Cape Town man fire over the crossbar from just inside the area.

Palmer’s first substitution saw new signing Wayne Matle (Kaizer Chiefs) replace central midfielder Michael Morton in what would prove to be a crucial swap. United began to string together a series of attacks and the home fans became more vocal.

Their decision to brave the weather was rewarded in the 71st minute when Baron fumbled a Peter Peterson free kick and the ball dropped directly onto the hand of Wits midfielder Sandile Sibanda. The appeals of the home team were heard and United were given a spot kick.

Sibisi stepped up and, in a moment that had hearts around the stadium racing, calmly sent Baron the wrong way to slot the ball into the bottom right corner and put United level.

The relief of being level again was short-lived for Palmer and his side, though, as United were once again caught out in the air just three minutes after Sibisi’s penalty. A Sifiso Myeni free kick was met by Wits centre back Derrick Spencer, who nodded the ball home without a United defender marking him.

The match would turn on its head once again no more than a minute later, and in bizarre fashion. In what can only be described as a freakish series of events, Matle received a pass and began running towards goal. Spencer, who appeared to have Matle comfortably marked, lost his footing which prompted Baron to come off of his line. When Baron also lost his footing, Matle found himself staring into an empty net with the ball at his feet and he side-footed United back onto level terms.

Five minutes later and it was Spencer who was forced to leave the field through injury and with Wits having used all three of their substitutions, they were forced to play the last eight minutes of the match with ten players.

United looked like the side more likely to win the match in its closing stages, but will head into Wednesday’s away match against Ajax pleased with a point from what was a tough first fixture.

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