Aka to United's rescue again

2008-11-26 00:00

SLOWLY but surely Maritzburg United appear to be steadying the ship — their last three home results have been a 1-0 defeat, 2-2 draw then yesterday’s 2-1 PSL win over Bay United at Woodburn Stadium.

To what extent this should be taken as a reflection of the steadily declining standard of their opponents — league leaders Golden Arrows, mid-table Platinum Stars then lowly Bay — is still open to question.

Nonetheless, after a six-game league and cup losing streak the relief and sheer delight on the faces of the United players at the final whistle was a clear indication of the significance of yesterday’s result.

In an amusing sideshow that highlighted the fighting spirit of the home team, United coach Gordon Igesund actually helped to strap the head of injured Bageta Dikilu in the last 10 minutes. The coach then lifted his groggy captain by the arm and unceremoniously prodded the defender back onto the field to defend the team’s one-goal lead.

Bay slipped to second-last place, while Maritzburg are now five points clear of the relegation zone scramble.

Cynics might suggest that a single-goal home victory over struggling Bay, who last week parted with coach Vladislav Heric, might not be much to shout about. But United have been under growing pressure with each poor result, and the simple fact is they needed a victory yesterday, by almost any means possible.

The first half performance of the home team was not encouraging, and the pressure appeared to be showing. But United relaxed in the second half on a Woodburn pitch made wet and slippery by the constant drizzle, and recaptured a measure of the exciting play that saw them go four matches unbeaten at the start of the season.

United had two early chances in the first half — Lynch Pule headed wide from Fadlu Davids’s floated ball from the right, and Peter Petersen’s overlapping cross found Brice Aka free to force a save from Bay goalkeeper Arthur Bartman. From the rebound Davids’ shot struck prostrate Bartman and went for a corner.

The home team took the lead in the 53rd minute. Elias Ngwepe was fouled by Jermaine Christian and referee Charl Theron awarded an indirect free-kick in the area. Tsabedze, who had a lively performance after a quiet start at United, picked his spot after a touch-on by Petersen.

Within five minutes, a blunder by Hunter Gilstrap, who had an otherwise promising afternoon in goal, saw the visitors equalise. The American missed an attempt to palm Jimmy Zakazaka’s cross over the bar, and the ball rebounded off the woodwork for Abayomi Adebayor to tap in.

Aka, who is making a habit of producing match-saving goals at Woodburn, equalised with his fifth of the season within two minutes, latching onto a through-pass and slotting his finish from just inside the area.

Aka hit the post in the 64th minute, and in the 76th substitute Junior Khanye beat the offside trap and fed Tsabedze, who slid on his shot.

Meanwhile, Kaizer Chiefs had a controversial penalty saved, but then scored from the resultant corner to beat table-topping Golden Arrows at Orlando Stadium last night. New striker Zito Ogbanna missed the spotkick, but defender Valery Nahayo saved his blushes by heading in on 70 minutes. Giants Orlando Pirates and Sundowns fought out a goalless draw at the Super Stadium.

RESULTS: Celtic 0 SuperSport 0, Maritzburg Utd 2 Bay Utd 1, Thanda 0 Santos 1, AmaZulu 1 Moroka Swallows 2, Chiefs 1 Arrows 0, Ajax CT 2 Wits 1, P Stars 0 FS Stars 0, Sundowns 0 Pirates 0.

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