United shocked at home

2012-03-22 00:00

THERE was plenty of lightning at Harry Gwala Stadium last night, but Maritzburg United’s performance was any­thing but electric as the Team of Choice went down 1-0 to Black Leopards in a PSL encounter.

As the players walked out on to the field in front of a small but vocal crowd, the wind was howling and the rain was starting to fall.

After just three minutes of football the referee decided that the lightning was too dangerous for play to continue and the players were sent back into the tunnel.

A storm of apocalyptic proportions then crashed on Harry Gwala and United’s fans were made to wait for an hour-and-a-half before the lightning had diminished enough for the players to be called out on to the park.

Many of those who stuck it out would have regretted their decision, too, as both sides’ inaccurate passing and inability to keep the ball resulted in a poor half of football that saw no clear-cut chances created.

United coach Ernst Middendorp’s choice of personnel was largely expected. Rheece Evans started at right back ahead of Peter Petersen while Prince Olomu partnered Cuthbert Malajila up front. The central midfield partnership of Michael Morton and David Booysen struggled to get a hold of the game and the storm provided the only real talking point of the first half.

Middendorp couldn’t have been happy with the display either, because at half-time he sacrificed Booysen for popular striker Diyo Sibisi in a move that gave United a three-pronged attack and made their intentions to go after victory abundantly clear.

It was not to be, though, and both sides continued to struggle to build attacks as the second period got under way. That was until the 55th minute. Leopards midfielder Raymond Monama made a direct run into the United box and found himself on the end of a low and powerful cross courtesy of striker Rodney Ramagalela. Monama made no mistake, and his tap-in from close range left United goalkeeper Shu-Aib Walters with no chance.

Straight after the goal Middendorp shook things up again by sacrificing winger Felix Obada for Wayne Matle. But it became clearer and clearer that it was not to be United’s night as desperate long balls and mistimed passes continued to plague a dismal performance.

When Morné Davids replaced Thabang Matuka at left back with 18 minutes remaining, United were ready to throw the kitchen sink at their visitors.

The best period of the game for hosts came in the last 10 minutes as United piled men forward in search of an equaliser. Matle headed a Mor Diouf cross narrowly over the bar and then a Kurt Lentjies cross/shot on the stroke of full-time tested Leopards’ shot-stopper Azwinndini Mapaha, but the 27-year-old acrobatically tipped the ball over the bar.

The defeat is Middendorp’s fourth in the six league games that he has been in charge of since returning to Pietermaritzburg. United have slipped to 13th on the PSL table.

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