Coach Steve Khompela silences barking Aces

2014-02-24 00:00

LIFE under Steve Komphela continues to show promise, and Maritzburg United have booked their place in the last 16 of the Nedbank Cup with a 2-1 extra time win over Mpumalanga Black Aces at Harry Gwala Stadium on Saturday.

United scored through a first-half Kurt Lentjies penalty after referee Victor Gomes — building up a bit of a reputation for himself as whistle happy — adjudged that Method Mwanjale had brought down the Team of Choice midfielder with 10 minutes remaining in the first half. Replays suggested that Gomes may have gotten the decision wrong, but that didn’t stop Lentjies from coolly slotting home to put the home side 1-0 up.

United had lost to Aces in the league a week earlier, and would have had visions of that result repeating itself when Ofentse Nato pounced on a Mbulelo Mabizela pass to level matters before half time.

The second half saw United more dominant — due largely to Aces losing Sandile Zuke to a red card when he lashed out at United’s Ghanaian youngster Frank Gyamfi — but they couldn’t take their chances and the match went to extra time well after 10 pm.

With penalties approaching, Zimbawean substitute Terrance Mandaza — who has battled to impress any of United’s three coaches this season — popped up in the 112th minute to capitalise on some poor Aces defending to squeeze the ball home and put United into the next round. It was a performance that had Komphela excited, and midfield workhorse Michael Morton was instrumental again as he charged and crashed his way to another man-of-the-match performance. But for Komphela, this is just a small step towards the most important goal of surviving PSL relegation.

“We could have scored more than the two goals, and these are the chances that you have to take,” the coach said after Saturday’s match. “But we cannot complain. What is important is that we go to the next round. We will treat every match with respect, but the PSL is still the most important for us.”

United kit manager Zola Luthuli posted a video on Facebook yesterday showing the side celebrating inside the changeroom after their win, and through the dancing and singing it was clear for all to see that the United squad at the moment are a happy bunch.

“Any win boosts confidence amongst players,” said Komphela. “They will start to believe more in what they are doing.”

After meeting him twice in a week, Komphela paid tribute to Aces boss Clive Barker. “Barker will always be barking, barking, barking,” the United mentor joked. “He is the old dog. He has a good group of players and you can see that they are playing with confidence. That is where we want to get to, and once that happens, I think that we will be very difficult to stop.”

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