Durban - Fortune favours the brave. That was what happened as AmaZulu advanced to the CAF Champions League group stage after securing a 1-1 away draw against TP Mazembe at the Stade TP Mazembe in Congo on Saturday afternoon.
Usuthu won the tie on away goals and were helped in large part by a masterclass performance from goalkeeper Veli Mothwa.
Despite spending the majority of the first half in their defensive half, AmaZulu took the lead against the run of play in the 37th minute. A free-kick by Keagan Buchanan was parried away by the Mazembe goalkeeper before Bongi Ntuli tucked home the rebound to notch his third Champions League goal of the season.
The first half was all TP Mazembe who would have felt that they should have had two or three goals scored by the 30 minutes judging by the amount of attacking passages of play that they had.
Mazembe attacking midfielder Merceil Vundi caused problems for the Usuthu defence in the opening 20 minutes of the game but could just not pick out a team-mate.
AmaZulu goalkeeper Mothwa was the busier of the two goalkeepers on the field in the first half by a long-shot.
The composure and impeccable game-reading on the day by Mothwa was key to Usuthu doing well as he frustrated the home side. The 30-year-old produced a smart save in the 32nd minute to deny Soze Zemanga from a corner and ten minutes later, was forced into a world-class save by Arsene Zola following a Mazembe corner.
As expected, Mazembe made some attacking changes going into the second half which may have been a bit panicky as it proved to give the South Africans more possession rather than strengthen Mazembe.
The changes seemed to have impacted the defending of the hosts as AmaZulu twice came very close to adding a second.
A Buchanan free-kick in the 55th minute again caused problems for the Mazembe defence and defender Tandi Mwape was forced to make a goal line clearance to halt what would have been a certain Luvuyo Memela goal.
FULLTIME | #TotalEnergiesCAFCL— AmaZulu FC (@AmaZuluFootball) October 23, 2021
What an interesting game, and in the last few minutes TP Mazembe equalize but it is AmaZulu that advance to the group stages with a winning goal in the 37th minute of the first half scored by Bongi Ntuli #HebeUsuthu#UsuthuTogether pic.twitter.com/nBAQYo7Lhh
Memela was on the verse of scoring 12 minutes later but on that occasion his effort struck the inside of the woodwork.
Mazembe did pull one back with the last kick of the game but it was too little too late.
There is no doubt that this outcome will go down as one of the major upsets of the 2021 Champions League. On paper, most would have expected Mazembe to win. Instead, the Champions League newcomers have ousted the five time African champions and beaten them on aggregate despite the odds stacked against them.