United throw away victory as Igesund won’t go for the kill

2009-11-02 00:00

MARITZBURG United threw away three points in their 1-1 Premier Soccer League draw against Free State Stars at Woodburn Stadium on Saturday night, and it was some bizarre and frustrating tactical decisions by coach Gordon Igesund that were the main culprit.

United should have been looking for a convincing display and result ahead of going into a hellish programme with their next three games away to SuperSport United on Wednesday, second-placed Santos and champions SuperSport United, before hosting fourth-placed Wits University on November 25.

While it might not have been the most convincing display by the United players over the 90 minutes, it was the second-half substitutions by coach Igesund that left the most to be desired.

United began well enough and for the first half-hour the crispness in the passing, structure and enterprising build-ups were back again for the first time since the PMB team originally lost their form with a 5-1 thrashing at home to Mamelodi Sundowns four matches ago.

Brice Aka opened the scoring in the 29th minute, scrambling a finish past goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene after defensive midfielder Bheka Phakathi had beaten Tsegofatso Mashego with a great run down the left, and squared. That was one of a number of chances created in the opening half-hour by United as they bossed a second-last-placed Stars team who are not short on quality, but clearly are on form.

United lost their momentum before the break. But their dominant display had set the scene for the home team to come out and go for the kill in the second 45 minutes.

But United could not get their zip back, and started conceding chances at the back. With the game crying out for a creative forward such as Collen Zimba or JB Ncubeni to come on off the bench and restore the momentum, Igesund opted rather to first introduce off-form defensive midfielder Musa Nyatama for dangerous striker Fadlu Davids in the 68th minute, then equally out-of-touch striker Norman Smith for midfielder Noah Chivuta in the 74th.

With the crowd chanting for Zimba’s introduction, the coach opted for a second defensive midfielder in James Madidilani for striker Aka in the 80th minute.

With six minutes to go, the pressure Stars had been exerting resulted in unfortunate defender Mor Diouf, who otherwise had a good game, bringing down Kingston Nkhatha and Duncan Lechesa was able to equalise from the penalty spot.

Despite his defensive changes, Igesund denied in the post-match press conference that his intention was to defend a 1-0 lead, and chose to question the legitimacy of the penalty.

“There was no TV here so I don’t know if it was or wasn’t [a penalty],” the coach said. “They [Stars] came here and got a point and I think we lost two points tonight.”

Asked if he is concerned, considering his team’s form, about the four tough games coming up, Igesund replied: “You talk about teams at the bottom and teams at the top — if we had won today we would have been above Pirates and they’re favourites to win the league. There’s too much emphasis on where we are and other teams are — it’s a long season.

“These are all tough games. Stars have drawn against Wits and Santos away in their last two games. They’re a good team and finished third last season. There’s no difference between playing this team and playing Pirates on Wednesday.

“Sometimes you start panicking too early about situations and always look at the gloomy side — that’s what football’s about, I suppose; that’s what sells newspapers.”

Asked about his substitutions, Igesund said: “I brought on Norman Smith to play up-front. My first change was Musa for Fadlu, who was limping, and I pushed Vito Badiane in behind the striker.

“Then I brought on James for Brice to shore up the right-hand side, where Stars were attacking. So it was certainly not a case of defending a one-goal lead.”

PSL wrap, results and standings: page 23

Dull Derby spoils the hype:page 21

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