Durban - A late penalty from Marc van Heerden was enough for struggling AmaZulu as they clinched a battling 1-0 Premiership win over 10-man University of Pretoria in Umlazi, outside Durban, on Wednesday night.
The match was played in heavy rain at King Zwelithini Stadium, where both sides appeared eager to push for the three points on offer.
The hosts struck the post twice in the second half, before defender Van Heerden stole the win with his 81st-minute effort.
Buhle Mkhwanazi was dismissed in the aftermath of the penalty after collecting his second yellow card.
It was just a second victory of the campaign for Usuthu and their under-fire coach Roger Palmgren, while AmaTuks lost ground in the title race after beginning the day in second place.
The hosts, desperate to end their poor start to the campaign, began with a fair bit of energy and dominated the early proceedings, although their best effort was an attempted bicycle kick by Thamsanqa Teyise which the defender failed to connect.
However, Usuthu almost shot themselves in the foot when Philani Cele made a mess of a routine clearance, allowing Mame Niang in, but the Senegalese striker blasted over the crossbar from two metres out in what will go down as a candidate for miss of the season.
Despite the home side continuing to hold more of the possession, Aubrey Ngoma and Mpho Matsi had excellent shots from outside the box sail centimetres wide with Philani Zikalala left scrambling.
At the other end, AmaZulu enjoyed their best passage of the game with Van Heerden, Kagiso Senamela and Ayanda Dlamini all drawing excellent saves from Washington Arubi within the space of three minutes.
The best of those blocks came when defender Van Heerden’s angled shot from the right forced the Zimbabwean to dive to his left and turn the ball away for a corner.
The match settled thereafter with the two sides going into the break tied at 0-0 in rain-sodden conditions as the heavens opened.
After the restart, Teyise and Ayanda Dlamini came closest within three seconds.
First defender Teyise touched Van Heerden’s free-kick onto the right upright, with the rebound cannoning back off the crossbar to striker Dlamini, who forced Arubi into a low save after forcing his way into the penalty area.
Ayanda Dlamini had another chance to fire his team ahead after 75 minutes when he was put through on the left, but his uncertainty led to a cross-goal shot that was behind the advancing Siyabonga Vilane.
With nine minutes remaining, AmaZulu’s fortunes finally appeared to change when Goodman Dlamini was adjudged to have been brought down in the penalty area, with Mkhwanazi receiving his marching orders after a second yellow card.
Van Heerden made no mistake from the spot as the hosts held on for an invaluable win. - Sapa