Lacklustre Maritzburg United salvage a draw

2008-02-08 00:00

MARITZBURG UNITED’S indifferent form continued yesterday, as they were held to a 1-1 draw by neighbours Nathi Lions in the Mvela Golden League game at the Harry Gwala Stadium.

United produced a lacklustre display in the first half, with no real threat on Philani Zikalala’s goal. Lions, playing with a stiff breeze at their backs, harassed the United midfield, which resulted in a rather drab first 45 minutes, with the ball spending a lot of time floating aimlessly in the air.

Senzo Mkhwanazi was the first to cause alarm amongst the United defenders, as his in-swinging corner almost curled in, assisted by the wind.

For United, a quickfire series of crosses by Justice Sithole, then Peter Peterson, and Sithole again all failed to find Collen Zimba or Fadlu Davids in the middle.

As the half drew to a close, Lynch Pule found himself in space inside the Lions’ box, but inexplicably passed the ball onto right winger Mngomezulu. Mngomezulu — from a tight angle — blazed his shot over the bar, much to the dismay of the increasingly restless crowd.

Lions were full value for their lead, despite its fortuitous nature.

First half substitute Peter Dlamini rose to head towards goal, and United stopper Dominic Sithole somehow allowed the ball to go in between him and the upright.

Coach Ian Palmer quickly pulled off the ineffective Collen Zimba, as United pressed to get back level.

When the equaliser came, it was as scrappy as most of the match, with Sylla Mbemba stealing in at the far post to score past a flat-footed Zikalala.

The Lions were not helped by Senzo Mkhwanazi’s reckless lunge in the 74th minute, which earned him a red card and stretched the visitors’ defence even further.

Justice Sithole almost provided a moment of magic for United at the death, as he cracked a right-footer from the edge of the box, only to see Zikalala acrobatically palm it over.

A loss would have been harsh on the visiting Lions, as they were full value for their point, away to the league leaders.

The two teams will meet again in a return fixture in Durban next Saturday, and United manager Quintin Jettoo says that match is now crucial for the Maritzburg side.

“Obviously it’s hard to play any side back-to-back, but we will have to get the guys motivated for that one.

Jettoo said United are not suffering from a confidence crisis, insisting that one win will restore normal service.

“When a team goes unbeaten for quite a while, it is a bit of a shock to suddenly lose, but the guys just need that one victory to turn the corner.”

Meanwhile, Jettoo also revealed that star player Graham King has left the club by mutual consent. The talented King cited a lack of opportunities and a yearning to return to Cape Town as his motivation to leave, and after consultation Maritzburg United decided to give him his clearance.

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