Sloppy defence cost United

2013-04-15 00:00

A FRUSTRATING Saturday afternoon for Ernst Middendorp’s Maritzburg United saw them dumped out of the Nedbank Cup after losing 2-1 to SuperSport United in the quarter-finals at Harry Gwala stadium on Saturday.

Maritzburg had gotten off to a dream start when a precise Dillon Sheppard cross from the left flank was met by a Cuthbert Malajila header that put the Team of Choice 1-0 up in the eighth minute.

Middendorp had selected an attacking lineup and had made a conscious decision to take on SuperSport from the left through Sheppard and the seasoned Delron Buckley.

As comfortable as Maritzburg appeared with the lead, it lasted just 14 minutes until some sloppy defending from David Boosyen gave the visitors the ball in a dangerous area — George Maluleka slotting home from an acute angle.

It got worse for Maritzburg before half time when right winger Rheece Evans — who had already been booked for a reckless sliding challenge — tugged the shirt of SuperSport’s Kermit Erasmus right in front of the referee to earn his second yellow and his marching orders. From the resulting free kick, SuperSport took the lead after Maritzburg’s defence went to sleep and allowed an unmarked Mogogi Gabonamong to head home.

In an attempt to restructure his 10-man side, Middendorp brought on Michael Morton and Peter Petersen at half time for David Booysen and Mohamed Awal. While Morton was Maritzburg’s standout player in the second period, Maritzburg were never able to launch any attacks of substance.

Comfortable with their one-goal cushion, SuperSport were able to see out the game and could have won by more were it not for some good saves from Maritzburg goalkeeper and captain Shu-Aib Walters.

“Obviously we’re very disappointed because we felt like we were doing well and that we could win this,” a visibly dejected Walters said after the match. “Maybe we fell asleep for the second goal a little bit, but we have to pick ourselves up quickly because we still have a lot to play for in terms of the league this season.”

Middendorp was furious at half time and he launched an animated verbal attack on referee Victor Gomes as the official made his way to the tunnel.

“I don’t know what it is, but it seems that every time we have this referee we have red cards,” Middendorp said of Evans’s dismissal. “The second foul, I feel, it is not really necessary for the referee to show a card there.”

But SuperSport coach Gavin Hunt saw things differently. “Its an unfortunate one, but he’s [Evans] pulled the player, hasn’t he? And that’s a clear yellow card,” said Hunt.

On his side’s performance, Middendorp was equally dissatisfied.

“Our plan to overload the left was working just as we wanted,” he said. “But when we give the ball away cheaply like we did — you cannot do this against a side like SuperSport.”

Middendorp also bemoaned the finishing of Namibian midfielder Heinrich Isaacks and the performance of Ghanaian centre back Mohamed Awal, who was an injury concern in the build-up to the match and was substituted at half time.

“When Heini [Isaacks] gets the ball he is nine metres out, and from there it really should be possible to hit the target and make it 2-1,” said Middendorp. “I was really disappointed in the performance of Mohamed [Awal].

“That is what you get from him — either he plays with a lot of quality or in a deep hole.

“His substitution had nothing to do with his injury.”

What had promised to be a memorable cup clash at 1-1 became a one-sided contest thanks to Evans’s red card and Maritzburg will need to forget it all before they host Golden Arrows in a league clash on Wednesday night.

But Maritzburg’s long wait for silverware will now have to wait until next season at the very least as they only have league position left to play for.

Saturday’s loss mean that Maritzburg have now gone 15 matches against SuperSport without recording a win.

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