United ready to punish any errors

2010-11-20 00:00

MARITZBURG United have had some tremendously encouraging results against the big teams in South Africa in recent seasons, which just might give them the pluck they need to go out and take the game to Orlando Pirates in tomorrow’s Telkom Knockout semi-final at Chatsworth Stadium.

United certainly know they have the capability of beating the big teams, because they’ve done it before.

Two seasons ago they beat Kaizer Chiefs 3-2 at Chatsworth. Last season Maritzburg beat Chiefs 1-0 at Orlando Stadium and Pirates 2-1 at Harry Gwala Stadium.

This campaign United have managed a 1-1 draw against Chiefs at home, and recorded their first victory over Mamelodi Sundowns after nine successive defeats in the Telkom quarters at Harry Gwala, before a 2-2 home draw with champions SuperSport United.

If anything, it’s been the manner in which the Team of Choice seem more readily able to lift themselves for glamour matches than the day-to-day stuff against lesser teams, that has been a somewhat frustrating characteristic of United.

This season, though, Ernst Middendorp’s team have been doing much to cast aside their “glory boy” tag, and a new competitiveness and fighting spirit has produced a rare consistency with a six-match unbeaten run in league and cup matches.

In that form United will again fancy their giant-killing chances.

Of course United are very much the underdogs. Even more so with the game having been somewhat controversially moved from their intimidating home venue at Harry Gwala to Chatsworth for safety reasons.

The wider pitch at Chatsworth could benefit Pirates, who naturally have the superior squad and play a more expansive game.

Pirates are probably a little rattled from the comprehensive nature of their 3-1 league defeat against Chiefs on Saturday, in a Soweto Derby where the Buccaneers were supposed to have been favourites.

Coach Ruud Krol admitted that the loss had pricked the hype somewhat surrounding a team who won the MTN8 in early October after beating on-form Chiefs over two legs in the semis, and went into the derby on successive 3-0 wins over Ajax Cape Town and SuperSport United.

But their derby defeat is also what makes Pirates dangerous. They need to redeem themselves quickly, for one.

Even more of a motivating factor is that if Chiefs beat Santos in their semi-final in Polokwane tonight, then Bucs will be super-motivated to overcome Maritzburg tomorrow to set up a derby final against Amakhosi, and an excellent opportunity to gain revenge.

Chiefs coach Vladimir Vermezovic said after his side’s comprehensive victory against Pirates that key aspects were to nullify the threat of Bucs’ defensive midfielder Andile Jali and left midfielder Daine Klate.

Jali has been a perennial man-of-the-match for Pirates this season and is the player who makes the Buccaneers tick from central midfield.

“Jali is a good player, but we have good players in central midfield too in John Arwuah and Bevan Fransch, and also Chilis Madondo. So it will be a tough afternoon for Jali ...,” United winger Felix Obada said this week.

Speedy Nigerian Obada has been slowly recapturing the form that made him a threat on the right side last season, and could be crucial in keeping Klate pinned back if he has an on-song afternoon.

Pirates would be advised not to have their minds on a potential final against Chiefs, because United do have the capacity to punish them for such an error.

United’s defence has been very solid in their last six matches, conceding just four goals. In attack Namibian Rudolf Bester is beginning to carve a reputation as potentially one of the PSL’s most destructive forwards.

United have still to click completely in the final third, though. If they do today then Pirates are in for a tough afternoon.



Tonight: Kaizer Chiefs v Santos, Peter Mokaba Stadium, 8.15 pm — SABC1, SSpt 4

Tomorrow: Maritzburg United v Orlando Pirates, Chatsworth Stadium, 3 pm — SABC1, SSpt 4, SSpt HD


Style Chiefs take aim at Santos: page 54

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