Away win boosts United

2009-12-12 00:00

THEIR 2-0 away victory against Bloemfontein Celtic was a morale-booster, and now Maritzburg United will aim to continue that winning form in their home matches, starting with tomorrow’s Premier Soccer League fixture against fourth-placed Ajax Cape Town.

United’s victory on Wednesday night in Bloemfontein was one of their biggest results of the season, and helped keep the relegation wolf from the door. Had they lost, United would have slipped to 14th, a place above Mpumalanga Black Aces in the playoff position, but having won, they moved up to 11th.

Ajax have brought Dutch coach Foppe de Haan to South Africa and the former Heerenveen boss has an impressive CV. De Haan was the longest-serving coach at a Dutch professional club with his 20 years at Heerenveen, nine as an assistant, then from 1994 to 2004 as head coach.

He is credited with turning Heerenveen from a minor club to a force in Dutch football. In 1993 he promoted the team to the Eere Divisie, where they finished runners-up in 2000 and qualified for the Champions League for the first time in the club’s history.

As the Netherlands national Under-21 coach, De Haan won the 2006 European Championship.

Ajax will be coming to Pietermaritzburg intent on bouncing back from a disappointing 0-0 home draw against AmaZulu in midweek, where the Capetonians dominated but could not score.

Ajax might realistically no longer see themselves as serious challengers to SuperSport United for the title unless something drastic were to occur at the top of the table. But Ajax are still level on 34 points with second-placed neighbours Santos, who have two games in hand, and the Urban Warriors have it all to play for in the race for second.

“They [Ajax] drew against AmaZulu, but I watched them play against Wits last week and beat them convincingly 2-0,” United coach Ernst Middendorp said. “Of course it’s a different story playing at home against a team that sits back and travelling away to a team that will want to attack you.

“I believe Ajax are definitely one of the strongest teams in the country. From the goalkeeper, Hans Vonk, to the striking department to Lance Davids in the middle, they have a quality player in each position.

“I think they will definitely finish in position three or four this season.”

Middendorp said United will play a pressurising game against Ajax.

“We are at home, and against a team like Ajax it can be very dangerous to give them space to play and put together their passing game, and to not pressurise them. You have to be positive and not sit back.”

United have influential new midfielder Kurt Lentjies on their doubtful list with a shoulder the crafty playmaker dislocated against Bloemfontein Celtic. James Madidilani is back from suspension.

United’s other new signings, goalkeeper Shu-aib Walters and central defender Mario Booysen, have added solidity to the side, while Rudolf Bester has scored three goals in five games.

Ajax will be looking to forwards Diyo Sibisi, Franklin Cale, Thulani Serero and Dipsy Selolwane to improve on their sharpness in front of goal. The return of gangling striker Nathan Paulse from Hammarby in Sweden yesterday, where he lacked game time, could also boost Ajax.

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