United shine in the rain

2009-01-28 00:00

MARITZBURG United’s confidence continues to grow as the team notched up another spirited home victory in the Premier Soccer League yesterday, 3-1 over Bloemfontein Celtic at Woodburn Stadium.

Last-placed Celtic came to Pietermaritzburg on the back of a 6-1 thrashing of Thanda Royal Zulu on the weekend, but by half-time were 2-0 down, and coach Owen Da Gama’s tirade in the change-rooms might have been heard back in the Free State capital.

The first 45 minutes saw two red cards handed out in wet, slippery conditions in a high stakes match that was always going to see the tackles flying in.

Yet it was United who seemed more up to the challenge in the conditions than their last-placed opponents in a classic bottom-of-the-table scrap.

United climbed to 13th place above Bay United. Bay have a game in hand on Maritzburg, but the PE team’s programme in their next five matches will give United some comfort to add to their relief of coming through a hellish six-game schedule of their own having picked up six points.

United have won two out of three games at Woodburn. If the stadium can continue to be a fortress for the PMB team, displaying the spirit and domination that also saw them beat Ajax Cape Town 2-0 at home 12 days ago, United should begin to move clear of relegation.

Bay’s schedule — playing Orlando Pirates and SuperSport United away, Free State Stars (home), Platinum Stars (A) and Mamelodi Sundowns (H) — will give further hope to Maritzburg.

“It was such a relief to us winning this game today,” said United coach Gordon Igesund. “All credit to the players for producing such a big performance in a pressure game.”

United began in the best possible way, as the Celtic defence allowed a Siphiwe Mkhonza long throw to go to ground in the second minute and the ball skidded into the net via a faint touch by Fadlu Davids.

Six minutes later a header by Celtic’s Mbhuyiselo Sambu was cleared off the line by Sipho Mngomezulu.

The Woodburn crowd have begun chanting Mkhonza’s name every time he lines up one of his dangerous long throws. Another of these set up United’s second, Solomon Mathe handling Gary Goldstone’s goalbound header and being red-carded by referee Robert Sithole, with Davids burying the 22nd-minute penalty.

Fanyana Dhladhla was lively on the right for United, and a mazy run past several defenders resulted in the ball being worked via Brice Aka to Davids in the area, who shot wide with goalkeeper Shu-aib Walters bearing down.

A minute before the break Davids was sent off with what seemed a mountain made of a molehill.

Davids caught Walters with a late challenge and was booked by Sithole, then shown a second yellow for questioning the decision.

Tashreeq Goldman, growing in confidence in the United goal, kept his side in the ascendancy with some fine second-half saves, stopping a shot from Sambu and diving in at Petrus Mahlatsi’s feet.

United took advantage of the broken nature of play to make it 3-0 in the 69th minute. The ball was worked from Dhladhla on the right via Mngomezulu, to put Tony Tsabedze through on the left, who finished coolly.

Celtic pulled one back when Mahlatsi headed in Maduka’s free kick in the 74th minute, before Goldman made another fine stop from dangerous striker Mahlatsi.

Yesterday: United 3 Bloemfontein Celtic 1

United’s next five fixtures

Wednesday, February 4: v Mamelodi Sundowns (Chatsworth)

February 8: v AmaZulu (A)

February 21: v Golden Arrows (A)

February 28: v Wits University (H)

March 4: v Bay United (A)

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