16 November 2008

United stage late fight back

IT was a bit of a scrap at times, and Maritzburg United didn’t get the win they were hoping for, but they did end their losing streak with a 2-2 PSL draw against Platinum Stars at Woodburn Stadium on Sunday.

A frantic last ten minutes — in which three goals were scored within a four-minute period, including a brace by United striker Brice Aka (pictured above) — thrilled the crowd as the home team almost came away with a victory.

It was a pity they did not, though. United can scarcely afford to continue dropping points at home in a highly competitive season, and their awareness of this showed in the manner they threw themselves at Stars at the end of yesterday’s game.

The PMB team’s problems at the back, where they continue to concede soft goals, have to be rectified if they are to find the form — or something close to it — that saw them go four matches unbeaten at the beginning of the season.

Encouragingly, United showed more than a few glimpses of that form yesterday. Apart from their fired-up finish, in the first half there were patches where their passing was sublime.

Stars, though, are a very difficult team to break down, and the lack of clearcut chances created by the home team despite their domination was something of a concern.

Yesterday’s draw was United’s fifth match without a victory, but did end a four-game losing run and saw the team rise from 13th to 12th.

“In the first half and the second part of the second half, our passing was superb,” United coach Gordon Igesund said. “Our goals were two good goals, and their goals came from silly errors by our defence again. We just have to really fix up our errors.”

Igesund had made a few changes from the side that lost 4-1 away to Wits University in midweek, with new signing Siphiwe Mkhonza making his debut in central defence, and Athiel Mbaha replacing Hunter Gilstrap in goal. Mbaha had a solid game, though Mkhonza had to go off with an ankle injury just before the break, and was replaced by an impressive Oscar Mathebula.

United came out fired up, and dominated the first 45 minutes. A rigid Stars defence and some physical play by the Rustenburg-based side, saw players going down with injuries frequently, which broke up the rhythm of the game.

The home team largely settled for shots from outside the area, with lively Lucky Maselesele the main source, and while the former Kaizer Chiefs midfielder came close, he did not manage to force a save from Tapuwa Kapini.

The Stars goalkeeper was called into action early in the game to palm over Sam Ndlovu’s vicious, swerving free-kick from an acute angle on the right.

At the beginning of the second half, after another drive just over by Maselesele, Stars opened the scoring when Alviro Lobo’s free-kick floated in from deep right midfield was glanced in by defender George Mofokeng’s header in the 49th minute.

After substitute Tico-Tico Bucuane directed a free header over from Maselesele’s chip into the area, Aka, who took some stick from the crowd in a trying performance, turned around his afternoon with the first of two headed goals, both from crosses by Peter Petersen.

Three minutes after Aka’s equaliser, Thabiso Monareng headed in Joseph Mkalipa’s uncleared cross from the right. Within a minute Aka headed in his second from Petersen’s free-kick, and the home supporters had something to cheer about.

A big positive for United was Bucuane providing a lively performance off the bench, having not found his form yet this season. The Mozambicans’s shot, and Maselesele’s looping header, were kept out by Kapini in the dying minutes to deny United their much-wanted victory.

United next play Santos in Cape Town on Friday night.

Article courtesy of Marc Strydom and the Witness