Back in the chase

2015-04-20 00:00

A GRITTY defensive performance saw Maritzburg United edge Bloemfontein Celtic 1-0 in a PSL clash at the Kaizer Sebothelo Stadium yesterday afternoon.

United coach Steve Komphela spoke after the match about the seven-hour journey to Botshabelo in the Free State, and how it had affected his players who were in action midweek against Mpumalanga Black Aces in Nelspruit.

It has been a tough week of travel for the Team of Choice, which made yesterday’s performance all the more impressive.

Kurt Lentjies scored the only goal of the game in the ninth minute when he turned in Deolin Mekoa’s expertly taken free-kick.

Komphela also acknowledged after the match that it was by no means United’s best display of the season, and that they had performed better in other matches that they had drawn and lost. But the end result yesterday was far more important than how it was achieved, and three valuable log points means that the race for a top-eight finish is back on track for the Midlands club.

Celtic had also been in midweek action, stunning the country when they thrashed Mamelodi Sundowns 5-0 away from home on Wednesday night. That alone made yesterday’s a daunting fixture for Maritzburg, but a combination of defensive structure and Celtic not quite being at the races meant that Maritzburg were able to hold out for 90 minutes.

Celtic created nothing in the way of clear scoring chances in what was a poor first half for the home side, but they did come out with far more attacking intent in the second. Lerato Lamola, the PSL’s leading goal scorer this season, tried to find a way through but he was met with firm resistance from United centre backs John Paintsil and Kwanda Mngonyama.

Mngonyama, in particular, was colossal to United’s cause. At just 21 years old, the Bafana Bafana U23 captain displayed a maturity that suggests he will be a massive player for both club (whoever that may be) and country in the years to come. The job Mngonyama did on Lamola stood out for all to see, and he did not give the striker an inch throughout the game.

There were a couple of hiccups in the second half where it looked like Celtic had done enough to test Virgil Vries in the Maritzburg goal, but their poor finishing (Celtic landed two of their 13 shots on target) as well as the resilience of the Maritzburg defence meant that Vries had a relatively quiet day at the office.

Just four fixtures remain for Maritzburg this season. Matches against Ajax Cape Town (home), Moroka Swallows (away), Orlando Pirates (home) and ­AmaZulu (away) will determine whether or not this team can create history by finishing in the top half of the table for the first time. There are still 12 points up for grabs — a lot given the congested nature of the middle positions on the log — but yesterday’s result means that ­Maritzburg have jumped ahead of Polokwane City and into eighth position.

They say that one of the marks of a good side is their ability to win matches when not playing at their best. That was certainly the case for Maritzburg yesterday, and if they can now rediscover some of the attacking momentum they have displayed at certain stages this season, then Ajax could be in for a tough time at Harry Gwala Stadium on April 28.

PSL results


Bloem Celtic 0 - 1 Maritzburg Utd


SuperSport United 1 - 1 Moroka Swallows

Wits 0 - 0 Chippa United

Polokwane City 2 - 3 Free State Stars.

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