Nightmare scenario for United

2009-05-06 00:00

THIS was the nightmare scenario Maritzburg United just did not want to face — the team’s survival in the Premier Soccer League, or more correctly chances of avoiding the second-last promotion relegation play-off place, will come down to their last game.

United fought like demons to extract themselves from a physical tussle against robust, spoiling Free State Stars at Woodburn Stadium last night, but could only manage an unfortunate 1-1 draw. This was despite frenetic attacking by the home team, particularly in the second half.

With Thanda Royal Zulu scraping a last-gasp 2-1 victory over Platinum Stars at SJ Smith Stadium in Durban, thanks to Clifford Mulenga’s late goal, United must draw or win against Thanda at Mpumalanga Stadium in Hammarsdale on Saturday to avoid the play-offs. Thanda are two points behind United.

United were desperately unlucky not to win last night. They had umpteen shots on goal in the second half after going 1-0 down in a nervy first 45 minutes, but could not better Fadlu Davids’s 55th-minute eqaliser.

Stars goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene and some desperate defending from the visitors kept United at bay.

It is a disappointing situation for the PMB team, and one that might leave management a little sheepish at having been so certain that their relegation fears had been eased by some winning results. In a normal season 34 points is generally enough to survive, but in this, the toughest of PSL seasons yet, even 35 has not guaranteed safety yet.

United started nervously as a long throw by Duncan Lechesa was allowed to bounce in the area where Thamane Motaung’s header had to be well saved by goalkeeper Michel Babale.

The home team hit back with a shot from the right by Davids that was deflected into the side-netting. But the home team’s defence were giving hard-running Stars too much space and Rueben Cloete’s ball from the left found Saitjheni Tsotetsi free to blast over the bar.

The visitors took the lead in the 18th minute. Bageta Dikilu’s clearance from defence on the right fell to Stars and Mpho Makola was able to take the ball forward almost unchallenged and finish with a well-placed ground-shot past an outstretched Babale.

With Stars sitting back United had plenty of possession to try to engineer an equaliser, but the ball just did not fall their way. Brice Aka’s skied header and Davids and Tsabedze’s long-range shots over the bar weren’t going to trouble Mweene.

United did equalise 10 minutes into the second half. The home team won a free-kick 22 metres out and Davids expertly guided his shot in at the right-hand upright.

United pushed forward and in the 73rd minute had a convincing penalty appeal turned down when substitute Fanyana Dhladhla charged into the area and was clattered down by Sanele Mabaso.

In a period of pressure that would have brought the Hoover Dam down, shots from Sipho Mngomezulu, Dhladhla and Davids were somehow kept out by Mweene and his defence.

After a sweeping move in the 83rd minute a backheel by John Arwuah on the edge of the area put Aka through the middle, but Mweene pulled off a superb point-blank save.

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