United squanders chance to get close to top-eight finish

2009-12-21 00:00

AS Maritzburg United head into the month’s break for Christmas and the African Nations Cup, the PMB team know how they stand for their last six matches in the Premier Soccer League.

That is, pretty much where they have been all season — not quite top eight contenders just yet and not 100% out of relegation danger.

If United had beaten Moroka Swallows at Woodburn Stadium yesterday, instead of drawing 1-1, then the Team of Choice would have been sitting in ninth rather than the 12th place they have hovered around for most of the season. And the home side really should have won given the glut of possession and attacking momentum they enjoyed.

Coach Ernst Middendorp’s record stands at a decent won three, drawn two, lost three. It should have read a more than decent won four.

If Maritzburg United want to finish in the top eight they cannot afford to drop points from home games that are there for the taking such as yesterday’s against a fighting, though ultimately out-of-sorts Swallows.

The performance was not poor, if anything it was quite good. But the application in two key aspects — concentration and application at the back, and making use of some counter-attack situations that were screaming for a goal — were what cost the home side victory.

“Of course we should have won this one,” said United coach Ernst Middendorp. “I think Swallows were really determined because they had lost a few matches coming into the game. But we were aware about this.

“I think that the fact that we are disappointed with the result shows how far we have come with a team that has a lot of young players in it. We are structured and creating chances.”

United appeared to be cruising to victory after Bageta Dikilu had scored from a 63rd-minute penalty.

This was after livewire Kurt Lentjies was brought down by Thato Ferland and referee Charl Theron — after discussion with the assistant referee, who indicated the foul was inside the Birds’ area — awarded the spotkick. Dikilu waited for Greg Etafia to dive before stroking home.

But some nervous defending that had plagued United all afternoon saw Swallows equalise in the 87th minute.

After the ball was lost in the United half the home side’s defence found itself backpedalling, and Lefa Tstutsulupa’s powerful shot was tipped onto the upright by goalkeeper Shu-aib Walters. Substitute David Radebe swept in the rebound.

This was a frustrating development for the home team who had squandered numerous chances to wrap up the game.

After a nervy start, during which a miskick by Walters almost gifted Siyabonga Nomvete a goal, United stepped up the intensity to gain control of the game.

Their best chance of the first half was when Fadlu Davids’s volley cracked against the crossbar, while Musa Nyatama’s shot from outside the area was stopped by Etafia flying across goal.

United attacked Swallows in the second half and managed to get behind the Birds’ defence. But a point-blank save from Walters at the feet of Lungisani Ndlela, where the defence had opened up to the beanpole striker, showed the frailties at the back were still there.

After Dikilu’s penalty, the home side should have increased the margin on two occasions. Rudolf Bester’s ball in from the left was skied at close range by the outstretched leg of substitute Brice Aka. Then Lentjies opted to pass instead of shooting from a good-scoring position in a four-on-two, but could not find Nyatama at the far post.

Friday: Santos 0 Orlando Pirates 0

Saturday: SuperSport United 3 Mpumalanga Black Aces 0, Wits University 2 Lamontville Golden Arrows 1, Kaizer Chiefs 1 Mamelodi Sundowns 2

Yesterday: Maritzburg United 1 Moroka Swallows 1, AmaZulu 0 Jomo Cosmos 0, Bloemfontein Celtic 4 Ajax Cape Town 2

Superb Downs outclass Chiefs, page 21.

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