Black Leopards advance to Nedbank Cup quarter-finals after shock win over AmaZulu
CAPE TOWN – Enterprising Black Leopards shocked AmaZulu with a well-taken 1-0 win in their Nedbank Cup last-16 tie at Thohoyandou Stadium on Saturday afternoon, after a goalless first half.
Victorious Leopards will now advance to the quarter-final after this deserving win snapped AmaZulu's glorious eight-match unbeaten run across all the Premier Soccer League's competitions.
In the opening 20 minutes, both sides enjoyed an equal share of possession and a few half chances emerged at either end of the field. The defences were let off the hook for early lapses mainly because attacking players opted for poor options like trying speculative shots from long range.
AmaZulu frequently launched their attacking sorties from deep options and occasionally they came unstuck before they managed to cross the halfway line.
When they probed deeper, they proved penetrative down the flanks, but Leopards defence did well to cut off AmaZulu's supply to central goalmouth areas. Leopards keeper King Ndlovu was forced to come off his line occasionally to avert danger in the striking zone.
Leopards impressed with counter-attacks which were launched at speed in its early stages but once they approached the opposition's penalty area they were checked before they could find their way into the striking zone.
The best scoring chance of the first half emerged just past the half-hour mark when AmaZulu was foiled by the crossbar. AmaZulu playmaker Siphiwe Tshabalala reeled in a free-kick from just outside the Leopards penalty area. Defender Tsepo Masilela who stalked into the firing line for the set-piece rose well above the Leopards defence to produce a powerful header that skidded off the crossbar.
Towards the end of the first half, Leopards finished the stronger but failed to capitalise on two corners in quick succession just ahead of the halftime break.
AmaZulu looked to make all the running when second-half play resumed and although they looked comfortable on the ball, there was a lack of urgency about their play.
In the 52nd minute, Leopards attacked down the right flank and managed to force a corner which AmaZulu initially cleared but the opposition gained possession just outside the penalty area.
Leopards striker Lifa Hlongwane pulled AmaZulu's rear-guard out of position by drawing them well out to the edge of the goalmouth before he reeled in a cross which fellow striker Mohammed Anas headed home at a time when goalkeeper Neil Boshoff's supporting defence was nowhere to be seen.
In the next 14 minutes, AmaZulu were let off the hook as their defence suddenly appeared to be in disarray after Leopards striker Rodney Ramagalela showed a fine turn of speed as he set off on dribbles in the goalmouth. Twice his parting shots were turned away by AmaZulu goalmouth custodian Boshoff.
Midway through the second half AmaZulu, chasing the game, made four changes in an effort to claw their way back into the picture. They secured sufficient possession to set up scoring chances but they often came unstuck in their build-up play.