United match PSL's form team

2010-09-09 00:00

A 1-1 DRAW against Kaizer Chiefs in a frenetically fast-paced Premier Soccer League encounter at Harry Gwala Stadium last night confirmed that this could be a season full of potential for Maritzburg United.

It was always going to be a tough ask for a United side not quite settled yet, and who had begun the season with a rusty 3-2 defeat away against AmaZulu, to match the PSL’s current form team, who have started the season dishing out stylish defeats.

In the first half United continued to look out of sorts and, despite hitting the woodwork twice in the dying moments, had to fight tooth and nail to be just the goal down, thanks to Knowledge Musona’s 29th-minute deflection past Shu-aib Walters.

United looked like a car that is in good condition overall, but in need of a good service to get the engine running smoothly.

In the second half, thanks to some fine-tuning by coach Ernst Middendorp in the change-rooms, the motor turned over in far healthier fashion.

United tightened up their play markedly after the break, and had their illustrious Soweto visitors, who look every bit trophy material under Serbian Vladimir Vermezovic, notably rattled, earning an equaliser via Rudolf Bester in the 74th minute.

On this sort of form, the young, hungry and energetic Maritzburg, who still have plenty of room for improvement, must consider themselves candidates to compete in the top half of the season for the first time in their four seasons in the PSL.

Pleasing for United were the dashing central defensive work of John Arwuah and Mor Diouf and dynamic middle pairing of Chilis Madondo and Musa Nyatama, while young right-back David Booysen and substitutes Diyo Sibisi and Ronaldo Donnelly also showed plenty of potential.

Chiefs have been in excellent form, and they had their stylish boots on again in the first half.

With Siphiwe Tshabalala a constant threat in his new central role, Amakhosi threatened to run away with the game in attack.

The first half-chance for the Soweto team came in the ninth minute when Musona could only faintly glance his header towards goal.

A minute later Mandla Masango was in space on the right and squared to Tshabalala, who skewed his shot wide.

Tshabalala appeared to have beaten the offside trap, but the assistant referee had his flag up. Moments later Masango did beat offside, but Walters stood his ground to make the save.

United occasionally threatened during this period, and a breakaway ended in Kurt Lentjies shooting straight at Itumeleng Khune.

But with the home team appearing to settle, Chiefs took the lead they deserved with a 29th-minute deflected goal when Jimmy Tau’s shot steered past the stranded Walters off the legs of Musona.

With United’s defence ragged, another clearance off the line by Arwuah denied Masango’s 41st-minute header.

United showed they were still alive in the game when Felix Obada fed Lentjies in the middle in the last minute of the half, and the midfielder’s half-volley cannoned off the crossbar.

In injury time, David Booysen’s header again struck the woodwork for United, and Bester headed the rebound into the side-netting with the goal at his mercy.

After the break, Maritzburg came out doing the basics right, tightening up their defence and midfield and finding a more fluid passing rhythm. Confronted by this tighter outfit, Chiefs ran out of ideas.

Despite this, a poor pass across goal by Elias Ngwepe almost gifted Amakhosi a goal, with Musona shooting into the side-netting.

After that, though, it was almost all the home team. In the 70th minute Diouf’s powerful free-kick was spectacularly kept out of the top-left corner by Khune.

Four minutes later the scores were level. Lentjies’s innocuous-looking ball into the area from midfield was hesitantly dealt with by Khune, allowing Bester to sneak in and get a touch into goal.

The match finished like the end of a heavyweight title fight, with both teams moving the ball frantically from end to end. It was United, though, who were pushing hardest for the winner, and with six minutes left, Nyatama burst through, forcing a save from Khune, with Sibisi unable to capitalise on the loose ball.

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