United in a ‘healthier situation’

2009-03-06 00:00

MARITZBURG United’s Premier Soccer League relegation battle hopes have taken a significant boost following a 2-1 victory over Bay United in Port Elizabeth on Wednesday night, and some beneficial results.

The victory, in a tough, bottom-of-the-table scrap saw third-last United open a five-point gap on Bay, who have played two more games and are now almost certain to finish last and be automatically relegated.

Second-last Bloemfontein Celtic lost 1-0 to SuperSport United and are four points behind Maritzburg, while Thanda Royal Zulu were defeated 2-1 by Santos and are just a point above the PMB team.

“It’s like popping a blister and relieving the pressure,” United coach Gordon Igesund said yesterday. “We know we’ve still got a lot of work to do, but things get easier when you have less pressure. And five of the seven games we have left are at home.”

After weathering the early storm by employing Sylla Mbemba and Bageta Dikilu in defensive midfield, substitute Fanyana Dhladhla scored in the 59th minute for United and set up John Arwuah’s 88th-minute winner after Linos Chalwe equalised for Bay with 10 minutes left.

“We took the game on the basis of not losing because we knew it wasn’t a situation where we could go for the kill.

“But we also knew Bay were desperate and would probably make mistakes,” Igesund said.

“We knew they would come at us, so we kept it very tight in the middle and at the back. I had the pace of Fanyana Dhladhla and Sipho Mngomezulu on the bench, and with virtually his first touch after coming on Fanyana scored.

“I’m proud of the way the players fought for each other. It was a situation where Bay knew that if they won they would be above us, or five points behind with two more games played, which is what happened.”

United turn their attention to knockout action when they face Thanda in the Nedbank Cup at Woodburn Stadium on Sunday, and Igesund admitted he is still unsure of the exact way to approach the game.

“We have to have our priorities right. Most importantly you don’t want to pick up injuries and suspensions.”

With Tashreeq Goldman still injured United fielded new goalkeeper Michael Babale on Wednesday. “Michael had a solid debut,” said Igesund.

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