United pull off a stunner

2011-08-25 00:00

IAN Palmer’s Maritzburg United proved last night that there isn’t a side in the country they can’t compete with when they defeated three-time PSL champions Orlando Pirates 2-1 in front of a sold-out Harry Gwala stadium.

Benni McCarthy’s 24th-minute opener, followed by his sending off on the stroke of half-time, might steal national headlines, but United fans will be far more concerned about the way their team fought back in the second half, to move to five points from the first three rounds of PSL fixtures.

The encounter started at a frantic pace and never quite slowed down.

A shaky 10 minutes for United saw a Tlou Segolela-inspired Pirates show glimpses of the class that has seen them become the most respected side in the country, with Shu—Aib Walters pulling off a spectacular save from a Segolela shot in the 10th minute.

McCarthy was yellow-carded for a handball soon after.

United midfielders Michael Morton and Chillies Madondo closed down space well in the middle of the park, Morton found himself in a few dangerous spaces, but was unable to test Pirates goalkeeper Moeneeb Josephs.

The wind was taken out of United’s sails when McCarthy found the back of the net after turning in a Thulasizwe Mbuyane cross at Walters’s near post.

For the remainder of the half it was one-way traffic as Pirates turned up the pizzazz with some delicate and skilful touches that had the Harry Gwala crowd in awe.

The closest United came in the first half was through a Mor Diouf free kick that had Josephs diving to his right and turning the ball around his post.

On the stroke of half-time McCarthy launched himself skywards to compete for a ball with Peter Peterson and collided with the right back.

The referee deemed it to be worthy of a second bookable offence, McCarthy was red-carded and Pirates were forced to play the second half with 10 men.

The extra man advantage would prove to be crucial for United, who looked a different side in the second half.

They were rewarded for their efforts in the 50th minute when Pirates failed to clear their lines after a Felix Obada corner.

United left- back Rheece Evans was physical in the scramble and the ball fell at the feet of Diyo Sibisi, who slotted home easily to level matters.

It began to look as though United would be the side to score the next goal but Pirates, even a man down, had enough about them to test Walters on more than one occasion.

In the 77th minute United were awarded a free-kick just inside the Pirates’ half. Peterson floated in a ball and Diouf towered above the Pirates defence to head the ball powerfully past Josephs and send the crowd into raptures.

After Diouf’s goal, which would prove to be the winner, Pirates upped the tempo of the game when it didn’t seem possible and provided a desperate end to the contest for the United defence.

Both Peterson and Diouf were forced to make goal line clearances and Walters was forced to make another exceptional save from Segolela.

The referee’s whistle could not come soon enough for the Team of Choice, but when it did the players and management team were unable to contain their emotions. Pirates players lay on the floor in disbelief while United players gathered in a celebratory huddle in the middle of the pitch.

The win means United are now eighth on the log and undefeated after three matches this season.

A trip to Bloemfontein Celtic on September 14 awaits Palmer and his players, who are looking increasingly capable of achieving the top-eight finish that they are aiming for.

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