Komphela urges United’s back four to step it up

2015-02-12 00:00

DEFENSIVE frailties have not been a problem often associated with Maritzburg United this PSL season.

They have been a side comfortable on the ball from the back to the front, and have generally run a tight ship when not in possession. But that all changed on Tuesday as an out-of-character display from United’s last line gifted Wits a 2-1 win at Harry Gwala Stadium after the Team of Choice had taken the lead.

Wits’s second goal, in particular, would have been hard to watch for Maritzburg supporters. Siyabonga Nhlapo was allowed far too much time and space down the right flank before delivering a well-weighted and accurate cross into the Maritzburg area. Striker Fikru Lamessa found himself completely unmarked, leaping into the air uncontested as he headed past Virgil Vries in goal without a soul even attempting to make life difficult for him.

It was a moment that left Maritzburg red-faced and the defending was so non-existent that it would have enraged a Sunday league coach.

These things do happen, and it would be foolish to expect a back four to never err. But Maritzburg must solve their issues quickly. Tuesday’s loss means that United have collected just three points from their last six matches at Harry Gwala, their last home win coming against Platinum Stars on October 18.

Coach Steve Komphela has spoken in the past of turning the stadium, sometimes referred to as the ­“Graveyard”, into a fortress. But the Team of Choice are the only ones being buried in Pietermaritzburg these days.

“It is a lesson. That defeat will make us go back and realise that if we don’t defend properly we will get punished,” Komphela said after the match.

“The factor of the two [Wits] strikers — Henrico Botes and Fikru — they are hustlers. They were fighting for every inch and the difference was that our ­defenders were allowing them to take charge and control things. If you are playing against strikers that are hustlers and you are too soft then you will ­definitely succumb to the pressure.”

And that is what happened. Maritzburg tried desperately to get back into the match in the second half, but Wits were well organised and chances for the home side were few and far between.

One glaring opportunity came in the first half with the score at 1-1. It fell to winger Mondli Cele, who saw his close range shot superbly saved by Wits ­goalkeeper Moeneeb Josephs.

“The chances you get, you have to bury them,” said Komphela. “I don’t know how Josephs pulled off a save there [against Cele]. That would have given us the lead, but it didn’t happen.”

Despite the loss, Komphela was not overly impressed with the way that Gavin Hunt and Wits took the points.

“If you had to ask me if there was anything special that they brought I would say ‘no’,” said United’s mentor.

“All they did was play high balls, they fought for the first one and the second one and we didn’t. The challenge was what we expected, that they would be doing a lot of crossing. But our failure to deal with the first ball and second ball was the result.”

Hunt was a little less harsh on Maritzburg’s performance, but was delighted with what he saw from his own side ­after seven weeks without a competitive match as Afcon stole centre stage.

“I thought we showed huge character after going a goal down. They ­[Maritzburg] were very committed as they normally are here,” the former ­SuperSport United boss said.

“You haven’t played for seven weeks and you don’t know what you’re going to get. Everybody is in the same ­position but it makes things very difficult. The breaks have been ridiculous.”

Maritzburg must dust themselves off before Saturday, where a date with Chippa United and former Team of Choice coach Ernst Middendorp awaits.

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