Too little too late for United in second defeat at home

2014-12-17 00:00

MARITZBURG United suffered their second home loss of the season last night when they went down 2-1 to Mamelodi Sundowns in a PSL encounter at Harry Gwala Stadium.

Both Sundowns goals, aided by some less than average Maritzburg defending, came courtesy of Anthony Laffor in the second half before a wonder strike from substitute Kurt Lentjies on 85 minutes gave Maritzburg hope.

United boss Steve Komphela once again showed consistency in his team selection, though there was the noticeable return of striker Mohau Mokate to the starting lineup after a long injury layoff.

There were a few familiar faces in the Sundowns line-up too. Former Team of Choice stars Mario Booysen and Cuthbert Malajila were named in coach Pitso Mosimane’s starting 11 while former Maritzburg fullback Rheece Evans looked on from the Downs bench.

With Sundowns’ star quality taking on Maritzburg’s ever-improving attacking game, an entertaining clash with chances aplenty was on the cards. But the first half did not live up to expectation.

Khama Billiat dragged a shot wide for Sundowns on four minutes before Thami Mkhize got United their first shot on target with a tame effort from distance just three minutes later.

Teko Modise was not the imposing presence for Downs that he has been all season, and the game took an age to gain any kind of momentum. The man who sparked a bit of life into proceedings was, not for the first time, Maritzburg’s energetic left-back Khumbulani Banda.

The Zimbabwean was booked for a clumsy challenge on 32 minutes, but just after that he showed good strength to shield the ball into the box before getting a shot away from an acute angle that forced Kennedy Mweene into a good save.

Banda turned provider on the stroke of half time with an accurate cross from the left byline, but Thokozani Sekotlong could not get anything on his header.

For Sundowns, Malajila came closest in the first half when he drew a decent save from Virgil Vries in the Maritzburg goal after running onto a through ball from Laffor.

Maritzburg looked in good shape at halftime, probably edging the tactical battle of the opening period, but Komphela would have been livid at his side’s defensive display in the second half.

Just five minutes after the restart a mix up between Vries and Bafana Bafana centre-back Kwanda Mngonyama gifted Laffor a one-on-one opportunity. The Liberian didn’t hesitate, rounding Vries with ease to tap in and give Downs the lead.

Just 12 minutes later it was 2-0. United, pushing men forward as they searched for an equaliser, were left thin at the back when they lost possession. Malajila played a good ball through to a charging Laffor, who slotted the ball calmly past Vries and into the bottom left corner.

That looked to be game, set and match. Maritzburg tried to get back into it by throwing numbers forward and threatening at set pieces but Sundowns, unlike their opposition, were solid at the back and could deal with the onslaughts. United skipper Ashley Hartog and winger Mondli Cele both came close late on, before Lentjies gave the home side a lifeline. Substitute Terrance Mandaza did well to hold the ball up and lay it off for the midfielder, who smashed into the bottom left corner on 85 minutes from well outside the area.

It made for a good finish and Maritzburg looked threatening to the very end, but it was too little too late for Komphela’s young charges.

Last night’s results

Polokwane City 1 - 5 University of Pretoria

Kaizer Chiefs 2 - 1 Free State Stars

Ajax Cape Town 1 - 1 AmaZulu

Maritzburg Utd 1 - 2 Mamelodi Sundowns

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