United draw a downer

2012-04-03 00:00

MARITZBURG United will have to overcome PSL log leaders Mamelodi Sundowns in the quarter-finals of the Nedbank Cup if they are to keep alive the possibility of winning their first major silverware in South African football.

And to make matters worse, they will have to do so in Pretoria.

The unwelcome news came yesterday after the draw for the quarter-finals of the country’s premier knockout competition took place in Johannesburg.

United chairperson Farouk Kadodia acknowledged yesterday that the draw couldn’t have been worse for the club.

“We wanted a home game, and then the opposition wouldn’t have mattered because we know that we can rise to the occasion against anybody at home,” he told The Witness. “But now we are faced with a very difficult challenge.”

It is the first time in the 41-year history of the competition that the quarter-finals will be contested by eight teams all playing in the top tier of South African football.

KwaZulu-Natal will have other representation in the form of AmaZulu, who have been drawn at home to play Santos in a far friendlier draw.

“I think for the fans it would be great if AmaZulu could do well against Santos, and if we beat Sundowns then a KZN derby would be wonderful,” Kadodia said.

Coach Ernst Middendorp is no stranger to succeeding at Cup competitions with United.

He guided the team to the semi-finals of last season’s Telkom Knockout where they were battered by eventual winners Orlando Pirates in a controversial encounter when what was supposed to be a home game for United was moved from the city to Durban.

While the dates for the draw will be announced by the PSL at a later stage, it is expected that United’s Cup clash with Sundowns will fall within a week either side of the league meeting between the teams on April 21.

It would be fitting if this were the case. United have already had three instances this season where they have met the same opposition within days of each other in league and cup duty.

The Team of Choice had two trips in a week to Athlone Stadium in Cape Town last October (Telkom Knockout) and more recently have had Nedbank Cup and PSL matches against Golden Arrows and Bloemfontein Celtic with days of each other.

Kadodia would not be drawn into commenting on who he felt was favourite to lift the trophy this season, but refused to rule out United’s chances. “I think we have to just take it game by game,” he said.

“But I know that the players have the desire and hopefully that will result in getting the trophy in our cabinet.”

Nedbank Cup quarter-final fixtures

(Dates and venues to be confirmed):

SuperSport United v Jomo Cosmos

Kaizer Chiefs v Free State Stars

Amazulu v Santos

Mamelodi Sundowns v Maritzburg United

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