United unlucky not to draw

2008-11-05 00:00

IT may have been a defeat, but Maritzburg United will take great confidence from the manner of their 1-0 Premier Soccer League loss against on-form Lamontville Golden Arrows at Woodburn Stadium yesterday.

One cannot quite call losing by a single goal bouncing back. But United did show plenty of signs of recovery from their mini-slump in their last two games, where they lost 2-0 in the Telkom Knockout to Free State Stars and were thrashed 5-0 in the league by champions Supersport United.

Arrows took advantage of a shaky start by United to snatch the lead in the 14th minute through Richard Henyekane’s seventh goal of the season. But for the last 20 minutes of the half, and entire second half, the visitors barely threatened again as United dominated without making the breakthrough for an equaliser.

United had their best chance to earn a draw when, with three minutes to go, Arrows’ Brazilian goalkeeper Helton Da Rocha pulled off a breathtaking reflex save from substitute Lucky Maselesele’s half-volley from seven metres.

Arrows coach Manqoba Mngithi, who has seen his side go six matches without defeat to be the only team still unbeaten in the PSL, was gracious in victory in the KZN derby.

“On the day I believe Maritzburg deserved something out of the game,” the ex-Howick school teacher said. “Our goalkeeper saved us in one way or the other.”

United coach Gordon Igesund was philosophical about the defeat, saying he was pleased with his team’s overall performance. “I said to the players in the changeroom that they gave every ounce they had and what more could I have squeezed from them.

“Credit to Arrows, who defended very well and their goalkeeper made a wonderful save in the last couple of seconds. We threw everything into attack and gambled by going man-to-man at the back. I was prepared to lose 2-0 and get something out of the game.”

After United created frequent scoring chances at the end of the second half, Arrows defended their 1-0 lead superbly for the second 45 minutes under some concerted pressure.

The Durban side opened the scoring when Kagisho Senamela’s eagle-eyed pass from central midfield picked out dangerous Henyekane, lurking unmarked on the edge of the area, who had too much space to turn and blast through the legs of goalkeeper Hunter Gilstrap.

Arrows harassed United early on, and broke up the home side’s passing rhythm. But gradually the Pietermaritzburg team began to knock the ball around and take control. United also worked harder of the two teams to close down spaces.

Wing Sipho Mngomezulu, who combined well with full-back Peter Petersen on United’s right flank, put in some telling crosses, one of which was headed well over by Brice Aka, charging in with 13 minutes left in the first half.

Sam Ndlovu, whose industrious presence next to John Arwuah in central midfield in a 4-5-1 formation lent United greater stability, hit a blistering left-footed drive inches over from 35 metres. Then Petersen’s close-range shot was stopped by Da Rocha.

In the second half, Junior Khanye, making his trademark lively appearance from the bench, couldn’t get enough power on his header from Mngomezulu’s cross in the 69th minute. Then Maselesele took yet another delivery from Mngomezulu on his chest, and his half-volley was brilliantly tipped round for a corner by diving Da Rocha.

Yesterday: Maritzburg United 0 Lamontville Golden Arrows 1, Platinum Stars 0 Santos 0 (abandoned after blackout).

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