DURBAN – AmaZulu’s up and down season continued with a 1-1 Absa Premiership draw against Baroka at the King Zwelithini Stadium in uMlazi on Wednesday night.
Two first-half goals earned AmaZulu a point to bounce back from the weekend’s 3-0 thumping against Kaizer Chiefs in the Telkom Knockout.
It also kept up AmaZulu’s record of failing to register consecutive wins, draws or losses in 10 league and cup matches.
South Africa’s representative at the recent Fifa Goal of the Year awards wasn’t on the visiting bench on Wednesday night, but an acrobatic goal was delivered in a style similar to Oscarine Masuluke’s wonder strike for Baroka last season.
Although not as spectacular, and scored from closer range, AmaZulu striker Rhulani Manzini’s bicycle kick got the home side back into the clash three minutes after they conceded the opener in the 30th minute.
From the left wing, Jabulani Ncobeni teased his way towards the goal-line and flicked the ball into the box, where Manzini connected perfectly to power the ball in for his fifth of the campaign.
Earlier, the adventurous Baroka outfit were gifted the lead when defender Phumlani Gumede conceded a penalty against Gift Motupa. The latter converted from the spot by sending goalkeeper Boalefa Pule the wrong way to register his fifth of the season.
The two first-half goals signalled the open warfare waged between the teams. Box-to-box action was the order of the night as the teams got stuck into each other, even registering a booking each in the first half for some rugged play.
This Baroka didn’t come into the game on top of the standings by fluke. They matched last season’s arrogance with tenacity, gritty defending and a never-say-die attacking spirit.
Motupa gave them an attacking outlet with his pace and physicality, supported by Talent Chawapihwa and Richard Matloga behind him.
Lending steel to their defensive shape was Letladi Madubanya, the midfielder who had a forgettable spell with Usuthu during their relegation struggles a few seasons ago.
A halftime entertainment routine by a Zulu dance group, with energetic drum beats and acrobatic manoeuvres, set the tone for another cracking half.
Not even a brief power failure of one of the floodlights dimmed the performance.
Home coach Cavin Johnson introduced Siyethemba Mnguni at the start of the half in place of winger Boysen Mbatha, and Mabhuti Khenyeza took over from Manzini with about 25 minutes on the clock.
Baroka countered by sending in Lucky Nguzana, another ex-AmaZulu player, for Motupa and Malawian forward Robin Ngalande for Chawapihwa as the tactical battles intensified like a game of chess.