United's goal: Beating the King

2009-11-07 00:00

AFTER a positive result with a hard-earned 1-1 away draw to Orlando Pirates, Maritzburg United will reach their halfway stage of the 2009/10 Premier Soccer League season tonight, facing tough Santos at Coetzenburg Stadium in Cape Town with a depleted team.

It is in defence in particular that Gordon Igesund has his biggest headache and the United coach will have to face the club where he won his third league title out of four in 2002, with a makeshift back four.

Making this task more difficult is that Santos have had an excellent first half of the season under former United coach Boebie Solomons and, in third place going into the halfway stage, might just consider themselves contenders to notch up a second PSL title for the Cape club.

United will take heart from having been solid on the road this season, with their draw against the Buccaneers at Orlando Stadium on Wednesday night included among some impressive away results such as draws against Ajax Cape Town, Golden Arrows and Wits University, and beating Kaizer Chiefs.

“I was very happy with the performance,” Igesund said of Wednesday night’s game in which United showed heart and character to fight back from a goal down just before the break to equalise via Mor Diouf’s 53rd-minute strike.

“We conceded a silly goal but overall I think it was a hardfought game for both sides.”

The coach said that, with a depleted defence tonight, the best option will be to attack Santos.

“I’ve lost almost my whole defence, with [left and right-backs] Elias Nwepe and Peter Petersen, and [central defender] Bageta Dikilu all suspended. On top of that midfielders Rudolf Bester [slight ligament strain] and Chilis Madondo [concussion] are also ruled out.

“But we’re obviously still going to try and get something from the game, because we’ll try and attack Santos. We know how they play and we have to start defending from the front, not the back.

“They like to play the counter-attack and we’ll press them back. I’m confident we can get something from the game.”

For Santos, on-form players such as pacy, terrier-like ex-Maritzburg midfielder Graham King have learnt much under the educated coaching of Solomons.

“Boebie’s been doing a very good job with Santos,” Igesund said. “Clearly if they’re in third place and have only lost twice then the results have been coming for them.

“And they’ve got some very useful players. Everyone in Maritzburg knows Graham ‘Guppy’ King. Then there’s Erwin Isaacs and Romano Scott, and the two very good big guys at the back, Musa Otieno and Mogogi Gabonamong.

“But we’re coming off a good result against Pirates and our away form has been good this season, so we’ll try to get a point from the game and even three if the opportunity arises.”

For United the form of goalkeeper Tashrique Goldman, who has grown in confidence from game to game and was the man-of-the-match against Pirates, will be a big bonus to the depleted back four. A defence always plays better in front of an in-form goalkeeper.

Brice Aka and new captain Fadlu Davids have looked dangerous in front of goal, while new signing Bheka Phakathi’s influence in defensive midfield could be crucial.

Today: SuperSport United v AmaZulu (Loftus Stadium, 3.30 pm – live on SABC1), Lamontville Golden Arrows v Mamelodi Sundowns (Chatsworth Stadium, 3.30 pm – live on SuperSport 4), Platinum Stars v Wits University (Royal Bafokeng Stadium, 3.30 pm), Santos v Maritzburg United (Coetzenburg Stadium, 8 pm), Jomo Cosmos v Moroka Swallows (Rand Stadium, 8.15 pm – live on SABC1), Free State Stars v Kaizer Chiefs (Charles Mopeli Stadium, 8.15 pm – live on SuperSport 4)

Tomorrow: Mpumalanga Black Aces v Ajax Cape Town (Puma Rugby Stadium, 3.30 pm– live on SuperSport 4), Orlando Pirates v Bloemfontein Celtic (Orlando Stadium, 3.30 pm – live on SABC1)

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