UMLAZI – Out of the cup at the weekend, Kaizer Chiefs’ listless season continued when they were lucky to bank a point from a goalless draw against AmaZulu in uMlazi on Wednesday night.
As in the Telkom Knockout encounter last month, which Chiefs won 3-0, AmaZulu made the early running.
And like that cup clash, Usuthu had two early moments to threaten – striker Rhulani Manzini had a long-ranger covered by Itumeleng Khune in the third minute, and in the seventh, midfielder Siyethemba Mnguni got Khune to make a proper save from an angled drive.
Mnguni revelled in the starting opportunity. He gave his dreadlocks wings as he galloped forward in support of Manzini and Mhlengi Cele, and tracked back to assist midfield anchors Butholezwe Ncube and Michael Morton.
The latter was equally eager to get stuck in. Returning after a two-game suspension, Morton wasted little time sliding into tackles, helped by the greasy turf that soaked up an earlier thunderstorm.
The former Orlando Pirates and SuperSport United man might even have given the home side the lead had his free volley been on target in the 21st minute.
AmaZulu coach Cavin Johnson believed they had the measure of their opponents in the cup game and promised to take the game to the Amakhosi, who at the weekend lost 1-0 to Bidvest Wits in the Telkom Knockout semi-final.
That Chiefs had one decent chance to score in the first half, a skewed effort from left back Philani Zulu in the 25th minute, was an indication of the home side’s dominance.
There was hardly a sign of Chiefs’ twin strike-force of Bernard Parker and Gustavo Paez as goalkeeper Boalefa Pule had a first-half breather.
He had to thank back-liners Mbongeni Gumede and Phumlani Gumede in particular for the mop-up operation, which was as slick as the surface.
Both Gumedes also combined in attack, following up each other’s efforts late in the half to force double saves from Khune.
The stars, although not visible as the rain returned, were aligned in Khune’s favour. The goalkeeper made a close-range block off Manzini while unaware of where the ball was.
It clearly wasn’t AmaZulu’s night. Another chance fell their way when Siyabonga Ngezana conceded a penalty six minutes into the restart, but Manzini drilled his spot-kick into Khune’s legs.
The Durban outfit last beat Chiefs 10 years ago, and have a dismal record of eight victories from 58 meetings against the Soweto giants.
They nevertheless persisted, but the second period was better balanced as Chiefs got into the game, helped in small measure by the introduction of Siphiwe Tshabalala in place of Hendrick Ekstein.
Pule made a proper save when he palmed away Paez’s header in the 65th minute, followed minutes later by another parry to deny George Maluleka.
The Uruguayan fluffed one more opening before he made way for Dumisani Zuma.
For the home army, Ovidy Karuru made a return to duty against his old side following a two-month injury absence as the contest fizzed to an exciting draw, with Phumlani Gumede sent off in the dying minutes.