United: Defy their Dunkirk against Chiefs

2009-01-23 00:00

IT was Winston Churchill, that supreme motivator of the underdog who probably could have made quite a good football coach, who said: “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.”

Maritzburg United could probably do with all the quintessential Churchillian proclamations they could get when the second-last Premier Soccer League team take on Kaizer Chiefs at Olympia Park in Rustenburg this afternoon.

It’s “fight them on the beaches” time for the PMB team, who have reached the equivalent of their Dunkirk in this PSL season, and could do with a “Battle of Britain” or two to swing the campaign back in their favour.

In United’s last two home games — especially an inspired 2-0 victory over Ajax Cape Town and to a lesser degree their weary 3-1 midweek defeat to Supersport United — the PMB team have shown plenty of “attitude”.

Now United need to take that positive frame of mind onto the road in a potential grudge match against the fifth-placed giants of South African football.

Chiefs must still be smarting from their controversial 3-2 defeat to United in Chatsworth in September. Added to this is the long-simmering rivalry between United coach Gordon Igesund and Chiefs’ Muhsin Ertugral, which reached boiling point after that game.

Igesund might have made his mistakes this season, not least what appeared to be an increasingly defensive approach during his team’s losing streak, and displayed a lack of faith in some of his fringe players — the cardinal sin of coaching. But what was clear against Ajax, where Igesund’s position appeared touch-and-go, was that the United players were willing to go out and die for their coach.

Much like Churchill, though somewhat more figuratively, getting his players to fight for him as if their lives depended on it has been a feature of Igesund’s career. But United must come up with something more consistent than producing a big performance when their coach is under the cosh if they are to avoid relegation.

A continuation of their positive approach would seem essential against Chiefs. It will not do to travel to Gauteng thinking, “We really can’t afford another away thrashing today.”

If United start with a mindset of not getting beaten, they most probably will be. But if the players are given room to express themselves, and respond with a daring approach, taking the game to Chiefs for 90 minutes like they did in Chatsworth, then they just could get something out of today’s game.

Crucially, United have the four players they missed against Supersport — on-form left-wing Tony Tsabedze, workhorse striker Fadlu Davids, Fanyana Dhladhla and Sam Ndlovu — available again today. Steady right-back Peter Petersen is suspended.

With Brice Aka having missed a few sitters on Wednesday, Igesund might opt for livewire Sipho Mngomezulu in a striking role just behind Davids, with Dhladhla on the right. Lebohang Kukame has also looked good as a substitute, and deserves 90 minutes to show what he can do.

In contrast to United, Chiefs have a string of absentees, including left-back Onismor Bhasera, Dominic Issacs, Valery Nahayo and strikers Jose Torrealba and Zito Ogbonna, who are all injured. Midfielder Reneilwe Letsholonyane and defender Mokete Tsotesti are suspended.

Amakhosi need a victory to keep their title hopes alive. For United it’s not quite desperation stations yet, but one hopes recent physical toning had the desired effect, because the Team of Choice could do with more signs of a revival today.

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