United find a new hero in Malajila

2012-04-23 00:00

MARITZBURG United has a new hero. His name is Cuthbert Malajila and he scored his second goal in as many games on Saturday as United shocked PSL title contenders Mamelodi Sundowns 1-0 in Port Elizabeth.

It was United’s second major upset victory in four days after they beat Soweto giants Kaizer Chiefs by the same margin on Tuesday night, and the result has left them in a very safe 10th position as fears of relegation this season have all but faded away.

Coach Ernst Middendorp’s only change was to replace the suspended Kurt Lentjies with Michael Morton, who had returned from suspension himself after missing the Chiefs game.

With Sundowns dominating possession, United were forced to defend for their lives for much of the match. But applied concentration and clear cohesion as a defensive unit meant that United’s midfield closed down space in the centre of the park, forcing the Brazilians to play long balls that Mor Diouf and Byrone Hendricks dealt with time and time again.

Diouf put in a colossal perfor­mance that saw him win man-of-the-match, and the Senegalese defender almost added to his goal tally this season when he blasted wide and then tested Sundowns goalkeeper Calvin Marlin in the first half.

But it was Sundowns who were making the ball move around the park, and chances fell for the likes of Esrom Nyandoro, Teko Modise, Nyasha Mushekwi and Clayton Daniels. But poor finishing combined with another highly impressive display from United shot stopper Shu-Aib Walters meant that Downs coach Johan Neeskens grew increasingly frustrated as his charges failed continuously to penetrate the brick wall that was United’s defence.

With the game heading for a stalemate, Middendorp bravely introduced striker Diyo Sibisi onto the pitch to partner a tiring Malajila. The move nearly paid off with around 15 minutes remaining when United’s top scorer this season had a chance to put his side in front, but Sibisi fell to the ground as his lofted effort went over goal.

And then, just as it did against Chiefs, the unthinkable happened.

With less than 10 minutes remaining Malajila made a run through the centre of the Sundowns defence. After receiving an inch-perfect pass from winger Felix Obada, the Zimbabwean only had Marlin to beat, which he did with finesse. His shot beat the keeper at his near post and it was celebration time for United and Middendorp.

As welcome as Malajila’s goal was, a silly time wasting technique from the Zimbabwean in the closing stages of the match saw him booked, and he will now miss this Saturday’s trip to Free State Stars.

• sport@witness.co.za

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