UMLAZI – AmaZulu moved a step closer to Absa Premiership survival and heaped more misery on Ajax Cape Town on Tuesday night with a 2-1 victory at the King Zwelithini Stadium in Umlazi.
The victory propelled Usuthu to ninth on the log and stretched the gap between themselves and the Urban Warriors to seven points.
Usuthu started the day in 11th and only three points ahead of Ajax, but they managed to gain their first win in six games in all competitions.
The Cape outfit are facing the mammoth task of turning things around in the last five matches if they are to maintain their Premiership status.
They have to do it against Bidvest Wits, Chippa United, Baroka FC, Mamelodi Sundowns and Kaizer Chiefs.
The defeat left Ajax still languishing second from the bottom with 24 points.
Muhsin Ertugral made several changes to the team that lost 1-0 to Bloemfontein Celtic last month.
Both teams paid the tribute to the late Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, who passed away on Monday, with a moment of silence before the match commenced.
Usuthu should have taken the lead after 20 minutes, but Ovidy Karuru fluffed an elementary chance to put his side in front as he ballooned a good square pass from Siyethemba Mnguni over the bar.
It was all Usuthu in the first 20 minutes as they dominated possession, but lacked the killer instinct and creativity at times in the final third.
Ajax found their mojo after 20 minutes as Fagrie Lakay dropped deep to exchange passes with Morné Nel and Grant Margeman, which allowed the Urban Warriors space to stretch Usuthu and utilise the pace of Yannick Zakri and Thabo Mosadi.
Mbatha kept AmaZulu in the match with a great reflex save to deny Zakri after he was well spotted by Mosadi in the 26th minute.
Zakri grew in confidence and started to find spaces in Usuthu’s defence with his clever runs.
Just four minutes before the interval, Ajax were compelled to make their first substitution. Ndiviwe Mdabuka made way for injured Toriq Losper.
The game went to halftime at 0-0.
Usuthu started on the front gear again after the interval. The experienced Mabhuti Khenyeza got the best out of Jody February as he turned in the box, but the former Under-23 international did well to parry it for a corner.
Mhlengi Cele broke the deadlock for Usuthu after 50 minutes as he forced his way in from a defensive error by Ajax and unleashed a great strike to beat February.
Seconds later, February made a magnificent save to deny Cele what was going to be his first brace for AmaZulu.
Zakri reminded Usuthu that they shouldn’t be complacent as he asked the question to Mbatha from range, but the Umlazi-born goal-minder did well to keep his team in the game.
The Zambian international Kwabe curled in a scorcher of a free kick in the 60th minute to beat Mbatha and put his side back in to the game.
Ajax were unlucky not score after 67 minutes, Phumlani Gumede making a goal-line clearance to keep Margeman at bay.
Ajax were then caught off-guard in the 75th minute as they conceded a set-piece in a dangerous position, Karuru curled a free kick into the box, and Siyanda Zwane netted an unfortunate own goal in his attempt to shield Cele and clear the ball.