KZN derby hard to predict

2008-10-03 00:00

If strength and determination are features of the current Maritzburg United team, they will need a good dose of both to maintain their unbeaten record after today’s PSL fixture against AmaZulu in Hammarsdale.

After three tough games unbeaten, there is little respite for United as they take on KZN’s biggest soccer club in a derby at Mpumalanga Stadium.

United’s first three results — a 1-1 away draw against Ajax, a 3-2 home win against Chiefs and 0-0 draw away to Bloemfontein Celtic — have been very impressive, and even coach Gordon Igesund has admitted to being pleasantly surprised.

But if ever there was a banana skin to bring the high-riding promoted team back down to earth, then today’s match would be it. AmaZulu’s wily coach, Clive Barker, and knowledgeable technical manager, Neil Tovey, would have taken note of United’s impressive start.

They would have had their attention drawn, too, to United’s physical approach and ability to close down spaces, and then attack with pace. The AmaZulu coaches are sure to have something up their sleeves for this afternoon’s encounter, a point made by Igesund this week.

“We will go out knowing we are up against a huge challenge. It is a derby and anything is possible.

We have to lift ourselves as it is one of our heavyweight clashes of the season.”

AmaZulu certainly appear to have their most impressive line-up for more than a decade, while their management and infrastructure, too, are more solid than ever.

Usuthu’s key player is Ghanaian under-20 midfielder Mohammed Awal-Issah, who can play centrally along with Bafana Bafana future hopeful Bafo Biyela, or on the flank. In defence, Pere Ariweriyai and Belux Kasongo are a formidable combination.

AmaZulu started the season with what appeared to be an imposing six-man strike force, but the tragic mystery death of last season’s nine-goal forward, Siyabonga Mkhwanazi, has left them thinner upfront.

This has left youngster Bradley Ritson to partner Myron Shongwe up-front, and Usuthu would have been relieved at the results of the new combination in the team’s 1-0 win over Thanda Royal Zulu last weekend.

Ritson, particularly, was impressive. He scored with a side-footed cracker and set up another two chances, one of which was squandered by the skilful, but not always clinical, Shongwe.

Like AmaZulu, United are high on confidence. Among their form players have been Elias Ngwepe and Sipho Mngomezulu.

United have a few niggles from that physical encounter and defender Bageta Dikilu and striker Fadlu Davids will undergo late fitness tests. Gary Goldstone is suspended.

AmaZulu have a good support base, though United, who will bus fans to Hammarsdale, should shade the support. KZN derbies can be something of a lottery, and both teams will have to be at their best to stand a chance of victory.

In other matches today, bottom-placed Orlando Pirates will aim to notch up their first win against Santos at Ellis Park, while Sundowns can make use of their game in hand if they beat Golden Arrows at the Super Stadium.

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