Team of Choice’s hitman Malajila secures 1-1 draw with AmaTuks

2012-12-19 00:00

IT was a game that threatened to entertain, but Maritzburg United will nonetheless be happy with the point gained in their 1-1 draw with University of Pretoria at the Harry Gwala stadium last night.

Two first-half penalties were the highlights of what was a high-tempo affair — the first from Tuks’ Senegalese striker Mame Niang, and the second from the Team of Choice’s Zimbabwean hitman Cuthbert Malajila.

United welcomed back Mohamed Awal from suspension, but the Ghanaian was shifted from his usual position at centre back to play alongside Michael Morton in the midfield.

It was the umpteenth option coach Ernst Middendorp has used in that position this season, but Awal’s physical presence effectively and competently shielded a United back four marshalled by brothers Mario and David Booysen.

While early indications were that Team of Choice fans were in for the attacking brand of football they have craved all season, it was the visitors who threatened first in the sixth minute when Ayanda Lubelo failed to head a cross from Aubrey Ngoma on target — his effort sailing over the crossbar.

But the wind was well and truly knocked out of the home side’s sails just six minutes later, when United goalkeeper Shu-Aib Walters was deemed to have fouled Niang in the area when there appeared to be minimal contact.

But with the referee pointing to the spot, Niang blasted his left-footed penalty past a helpless Walters into the top right corner to put the visitors 1-0 up.

An ambitious Awal effort from distance then troubled Tuks goalkeeper Washington Arubi, but Terrance Mandaza was a fraction too late in arriving to the spilled ball.

United have had their fair share of refereeing woes in recent matches, but the officiating gods finally gave Middendorp a break when Tuks defender Tebogo Monyai clattered into Malajila after Morton had played a delightful ball into the area in the 35th minute and a penalty was awarded.

United’s top scorer this season dusted himself off to pile-drive his ball into the roof of the net to make it 1-1.

But the second half failed to deliver any clear-cut opportunities for United, and it was the visitors who seemed more likely to snatch the three points.

The best chance of the half for the home side came in the 56th minute after some enterprising link-up play between Mandaza and Malajila resulted in the latter hitting his off-balanced effort wide to the right of goal.

Niang’s aerial ability was a constant threat for United, but the Booysens were composed throughout and limited Tuks to half chances, with Walters never really called upon to make any difficult saves.

The final score, the same as when the side’s met on the opening weekend of PSL fixtures in Pretoria, sees United end a three-match losing streak and climb back up to fourth on the log ahead of Free State Stars on goal difference.

This will change tonight if Stars get anything from their fixture away at Wits.

After this week, the PSL breaks for almost two months as South Africa prepares to host Afcon 2013.

United are back in action when they travel to Durban to take on bottom club AmaZulu at Moses Mabhida.

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