United have what it takes

2011-05-05 00:00

RELEGATION-THREATENED Maritzburg United coach Ian Palmer has urged his side to treat Saturday’s crucial PSL home clash with title contenders Mamelodi Sundowns as a cup final.

United go into the match with memories of coming back from a goal down against Mpumalanga Black Aces last weekend still fresh in their minds.

While the Team of Choice now find themselves in the safety zone, two points above Vasco Da Gama who occupy the relegation/promotion spot, a loss against Sundowns on Saturday could put the Maritzburgers back in trouble.

Fans and players will take comfort in the fact that it was Maritzburg who ended the Brazilians’ run in the Telkom Knockout quarter-finals back in November. That game, also played at the Harry Gwala Stadium, saw lively striker Rudolf Bester open the scoring from the penalty spot in a 2-0 upset. Palmer has identified the return to fitness of Bester, who missed out on the trip to Mpumalanga and has been out of action for a month, as key to his side’s success on Saturday.

“It will be good to have Bester back because he offers us a different dimension up front,” said Palmer. “The boys know what is at stake on Saturday, they know that they will have a fight on their hands and they know that it is a very important game.

“We want to be able to go to Ajax in the last game of the season and know that there is no pressure.”

Bester’s return to the squad will strengthen United’s attacking options, and with fellow striker Diyo Sibisi showing promising form, United will know that they possess the ability to score goals. Sibisi scored two goals in seven minutes in the game against Aces and is aiming to continue his goal-scoring form in front of what is expected to be one of the largest crowds of the season at Harry Gwala.

United’s leading scorer in the league this season says that he has scored against Sundowns many times in his playing career and that he hopes to do the same on Saturday.

“I seem to have a lot of luck when I play Sundowns and I hope I can score against them again. The fact that we are playing at home is always important because it is always good to have your supporters there,” said the 29-year-old striker.

Sibisi, while acknowledging that Saturday would be tough, urged his team-mates to work tirelessly to ensure a result.

“We have to fight as a team and play quick, counter-attacking football. We know that they [Sundowns] have players who are older and slower than us so we have to use that to our advantage,” he said.

“If we score in the first half I think we will be able to kill the game off and get a victory,” he added.

Defensively, United will look to experienced goalkeeper Shu-Aib Walters, who says that the victory over Sundowns in the Telkom Knockout will give the side the belief that they can come away from Saturday’s match with a result.

“We have beaten them before at home so we know that we can do it. We need to win 90 – 95% of the one-on-one battles and we can’t have any players playing under par,” said the member of Bafana Bafana’s 2010 World Cup squad.

United will go into the game with all the fitness boxes ticked. Winger Felix Obada was forced to miss the end of training yesterday after he suffered a strain in his leg, but Palmer confirmed that the Nigerian would be available for Saturday.

The game kicks off at 3 pm.

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