United spurn chances with clear goal overruled, but Usuthu’s victory deserved

2010-03-22 00:00

A TOUCH of poor fortune, sloppy finishing and an inability to convert possession into more clear-cut chances saw Maritzburg United continue their record of never progressing past the first round of the Telkom Knockout, as AmaZulu earned an ultimately deserved 1-0 victory at Moses Mabhida Stadium on Saturday.

United came out fired up and could have wrapped up the game in the opening 15 minutes. They were unlucky when Mario Booysen’s header crashed off the crossbar in the fourth minute and bounced 10 centimetres over the line, but the goal was over-ruled by the assistant referee.

After leaving Dumisani Ngwenya free to head in AmaZulu’s 16th-minute winner, United’s Kurt Lentjies blasted over after a great run by left-back Elias Ngwepe down the left.

Rudolf Bester spurned another excellent chance to send the game into extra-time in the dying minutes, over-running with the ball at his feet after beating the offside trap.

AmaZulu recovered from a defensively sloppy first half and harassed United in the second 45 minutes, while creating chances to wrap up the game on the counter-attack.

For their part, in their last three games United have been unable to get into the quick-passing pattern that saw them break down Lamontville Golden Arrows in a 2-1 league victory and Orlando Pirates in a 2-1 win earlier in the season.

The team have not scored in three games following a 0-0 draw away against 10-man Free State Stars and 1-0 home defeat against Santos.

United coach Ernst Middendorp has time on his side to rediscover the formula, though he also has a challenge maintaining his players’ interest until United’s next competitive match when the Nedbank Cup kicks off in early April.

“We had some clear chances to win the game, and dominated, especially at the beginning of the match,” Middendorp said afterwards.

“We were not at a similar standard in the second half, when we were rushing and panicking a bit too much, and giving away possession.

“Still, we had some chances to equalise. In the end we are responsible. Again, like in the last three games, we were well organised and well structured in our build-ups but they came to nothing too often.”

AmaZulu coach Neil Tovey said his side always expected to have to fight for victory against United, against whom Usuthu have lost in their last five league encounters.

“We always knew it would be a tough game playing against our neighbours. We’ve never done well against them and knew we were in for a fight,” said Tovey.

“The first 45 minutes was some of the worst football we’ve played this season. Sometimes football’s like that — you tear your hair out and go into the break a goal up.

“In the second half we knew United would come at us. Ernst spoke about giving away possession, but we also worked extremely hard on closing them down, and we had a good few chances to wrap up the game on the break, too.

“But congrats to Ernst — he’s built up a good team who could be successful in the future and I think it’s good for KwaZulu-Natal to have such strong sides in the league.”

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