6 December 2008
FIGHT FOR A DRAW
Maritzburg United came from a goal behind, and a man down, to show great character in grabbing a 1-1 draw Free State Stars at the Goble Park Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The Team of Choice started the game positively, creating a couple of chances early on.
Stars also had a few opportunities of their own, but Hunter Gilstrap's goal was not threatened.
Against the run of play, James Matola put Ea Lla Koto up after 36 minutes when he found the back of the net with a header.
Maritzburg suffered a set-back after 60 minutes when Simpiwe Mkhonsa was sent off for a second bookable offence - the decision appeared to be rather harsh on the player and the team.
Four minutes later the referee made another questionable ruling when he awarded Stars a penalty when Bageta Dikulu challenged Diyo Sibisi inside the box. Replays suggested that the United defender had clearly got a touch on the ball before contact was made with Sibisi.
Justice was however served as Gilstrap pulled off a fine save to keep the Team of Choice in the game.
This save served as a catalyst as the KZN side, who took the game by the scruff of the neck, gambling at the back with just three defenders as they went forward in search of an equaliser.
Despite their one-man numerical disadvantage, United dominated the game for the last 30 minutes as wave after wave of attack was thrown at the Stars defence.
The home side finally cracked in the 83rd minute when United's two substitutes, Lucky Maselesele and Lebohang Kukane combined to score the equaliser.
Maselesele whipped in a cross from the left and Kukane superbly guided a header in to the far post, giving Stars keeper Kennedy Mweene no chance.
At this stage it appeared as if a win could well have been on the cards for the visiting side, however, there was moment of drama late on as Peter Petersen cleared the ball off his won line, typifying the determined and never-say-die attitude of the Team of Choice.
Coach Gordon Igesund was full of praise for his side, who showed real bravery and determination to fight back for a point, despite several questionable decisions going against them.
"The team was superb, we really showed character to keep going and get something out of the game.
"We had to gamble at the back with three defenders, but it paid off and we could have won this game," said Igesund.
"The penalty they received was very dodgy, while I felt that we could have been awarded a penalty of our own for a hand-ball inside the box. I would also like to take another look at Simphiwe's sending off as I think this may have been a harsh decision as well," added Igesund.
With four points under their belt from their last two games, and a great team spirit clearly prevailing in the side, United can now head into their game against Mamelodi Sundowns filled with confidence and optimism.