Mbemba: Maritzburg United will play for a win

2008-06-26 00:00

Maritzburg United must play for a win against FC AK in Sunday’s second leg of the National First Division play-off final, despite having secured an away goal advantage in the first leg, says star Guinean defender Sylla Mbemba.

United were given a tough time by FC AK to be a goal down in the first half of the first leg at Eldorado Park in Johannesburg on Wednesday, but fought back to easily dominate their tiring opponents in the second half and draw 1-1.

“FC AK played well in the first half – they wanted to press us with three strikers and we did well to hold them to just a single goal. But to be honest, I thought [second-placed Coastal Stream side] Bay United were a better team than FC AK,” cultured, intelligent defender Mbemba said yesterday.

He continued: “We didn’t expect AK to play with three strikers, but the coach told us how to deal with that and I think we did well to come back and really dominate in the second half. And on Sunday we will do even better, playing in front of our own fans.”

With away goals counting double in the event of an aggregate tie in scores, a 0-0 draw would be enough for United to win the NFD title and be promoted to the Premier Soccer League. But Mbemba says United “are confident and we are not going to play for a 0-0 draw — we are going to win this game”.

The defender said he expects a concerted early attack from AK again. “But we are fit, and I think after the first half-an-hour they will be tired again, like they were in the first leg.”

Mbemba has had an impressive first season in South Africa, and is one of United’s candidates for player of the season along with striker Fadlu Davids.

Davids equalled Ga-Rankuwa United striker Reason Chiloane as the top scorer in the NFD with his 13th goal in the first leg against AK. The striker has scored four of United’s five goals in their last three pressure matches.

Mbemba says of the Davids’s contribution: “It is not just about Fadlu, it is the whole team. Because Fadlu can’t score goals alone.

“He is a good striker and I think that he can be one of the best in South Africa. He always plays for the team and not for himself, and when the team is in trouble he comes up with a goal.”

For United, the aim of reaching the PSL is now within touching distance.

“On the first day I came here I said to the coach and the management that I want to reach the PSL, and I want to do it with Maritzburg United,” Mbemba said. Ninety minutes stands between him and his team-mates achieving that goal.

* With PSL rules not allowing free entry for the NFD final, United will subsidise free open stand tickets for the first 3 000 fans arriving at Harry Gwala Stadium on Sunday. Tickets for the grandstand are R20, and R10 for the open stand, and the ticket booth opens at 11.30 am.

The club will give away 5 000 Maritzburg United T-shirts to help “paint the stadium blue”. Free flags will also be given away.

United chairman Farouk Kadodia said: “We had 120 fans at the first leg and they made more noise than the FC AK supporters, which really helped the team.

“Imagine what a crowd of 6 000 to 8 000, or even more, could do.”

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