DURBAN – AmaZulu moved to the top of the DSTV Premiership standings, albeit possibly for the time being following a hard-fought 1-0 win over arch-rivals Golden Arrows in the Durban derby at the Sugar Ray Xulu Stadium in Lamontville on Saturday afternoon.
Luvuyo Memela opened the scoring on the stroke of half-time, sending a well-drilled effort from outside the 18-yard box beyond the reach of Arrows keeper Sifiso Mlungwana.
The first clear cut opportunity of the game came in the 18th minute as Arrows defensive midfielder Seth Parusnath produced a goal-saving block to deny Thabo Qalinge whose sheer power on the shot must have left Parusnath in pain for a long time.
AmaZulu were the better side in the early stages and showed composure to earn their eighth league victory in nine games.
Mlungwana denied Memela with a palmed save in the 27th minute following a quick-counter-attack by Usuthu.
Arrows captain Nkosinathi Sibisi was lucky to just receive just a yellow card in the 40th minute following a reckless challenge on Lehlohonolo Majoro. AmaZulu’s Tapelo Xoki who has established himself as a strong free-kick taker would have been disappointed as he skied the resultant set-piece into the stands.
Though the Arrows stubborn defence once again did okay and kept the score lower than it could have been, Mandla Ncikazi’s side struggled to create strong attacking passages of play in the earlier stages with Usuthu keeper Veli Mothwa having been anonymous for until the latter stages of the game.
A defensive misunderstanding between Mlungwana and Thabani Zuke led to the Arrows defence opening up, though the former did manage to save Augustine Mulenga’s resulting shot, albeit uncomfortably.
There will be some concern for Usuthu as the influential Mulenga was in pain throughout the second half, eventually being substituted. Majoro spurned a golden opportunity to double Usuthu’s lead in the 64th minute as he was presented with a one-on-one opportunity to shoot for goal but ended up putting too much curl on the ball and dragging his effort wide.
Arrows did come to life in the last 25 minutes of the game particularly, as they put pressure on Mothwa’s goal but it was too late. Had they exerted pressure earlier, they could have avoided defeat.
Mothwa showed why he is now regarded as one of the best keepers in the country by expertly saving a good free-kick effort at goal from Arrows’ Knox Mutizwa.
Arrows were the dominant side in the closing stages of the game and looked the likelier to score, as Usuthu struggled to maintain possession for sustained periods of time.
There were nervous moments for AmaZulu in the death and they had their fair share of fortune in the 88th minute as a header from Mutizwa took a deflection before striking the woodwork.
The result is historic for Usuthu as it sees them move up to 50 points for the first time in the PSL era. They will be looking to continue their winning ways when they host Baroka FC at the King Zwelethini Stadium in Umlazi in just under two weeks.