DURBAN – Derby weekend got off to a rocking start when Mamelodi Sundowns beat AmaZulu 3-1 in an Absa Premiership battle at the King Zwelithini Stadium in Umlazi on Friday night.
Goals, yellow cards, drumming, dancing and drama with a bit of crowd trouble offered a foretaste of what the Soweto derby traditionally stands for.
It was free flowing stuff from kickoff.
AmaZulu opted for a three-man attack with Mhlengi Cele, Mabhuti Khenyeza and Siyabonga Nomvete supported by the creativity of Siyethemba Mnguni in midfield as they took the game to the log leaders.
Backed by a full house crowd – green in the main stand and yellow opposite – and with lively traditional entertainment at half time, the teams dished out a feast of open attacking play. Goals flowed early as the visitors took the lead via Brazilian dedender Ricardo Nascimento’s penalty following a foul by Sadate Ouro-Akoriko on Percy Tau. Usuthu replied in similar fashion when Cele drilled in low and powerfully after he won an indirect free kick in a tussle with goalie Razak Brimah 10 minutes before the interval.
As if in keeping with the high strung nature of the Soweto derby, passions ran high when Sibusiso Vilakazi bagged his second in quick succession in the second half and the home crowd hurled missiles onto the pitch. It led to a 10-minute stoppage as the security officials restored calm following the disputed goal.
With Tau on fire and Uruguayan Gaston Sirino enjoying the greenery offered by the home midfield, there were prospects of more goals. Themba Zwane was foiled by Boalefa Pule and Tau had a first half goal ruled out for offside, in between several other runs on the wrong side of the assistant referee’s flag.
The champions elect took control with the two-goal cushion and the intensity ebbed out of the tie somewhat as they absorbed the pressure of AmaZulu’s relentless efforts for goals to get back into the game.
It was all about game management for Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane as the Brazilians were on course for a 13th league victory and an increased lead over the chasing pack, especially with one or both of Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates set to drop points in the derby this afternoon.
Motjeka Madisha and Anele Ngcongca went on for Nascimento and midfielder Zwane respectively as Sundowns wound the clock down towards an exciting finish as AmaZulu found a second wind and threw all into attack.
Vilakazi even got booked for time wasting as the tempo rose again following the introductions of wingers Ovidy Karuru and Simphiwe Lumkwana by the home outfit.