DURBAN - AmaZulu started the new season in a similar fashion that they finished last, as they defeated Baroka FC 1-0 in a hotly contested Absa Premiership encounter at King Zwelithini Stadium in Umlazi.
Last season Usuthu finished the season on high note, beating Cape Town City 1-0 in their last game of the season in Umlazi. AmaZulu didn't play pretty, but fought diligently and gallantly for their maximum points.
Cavin Johnson, the coach at AmaZulu, lived up to his words. He promised to hand out some debuts and did exactly that. Moeneeb Josephs, Emiliano Tade and Nhlanhla Vilakazi were thrown in to the starting line up for their debuts at Usuthu. Tade was taken off after 60 minutes. He showed some good signs with the ball on his feet and made some well timed runs.
Baroka fluffed a glorious opportunity to take the lead 15 minutes in to the first half as Ranga Chivaviro ballooned his shot over the bar. Usuthu took the lead when Siyethemba Sithebe profited from good flick by the energetic Tade to put his side upfront with the bullet after 22 minutes.
Baroka paid the price for not hurting Usuthu despite enjoying the bulk of the possession in the early stages of the game. Sithebe, who is formerly known as Mnguni, was causing a havoc for the likes of Letladi Madubanya and Theriso Mapheto at the back for Baroka on transitional play.
AmaZulu were dealt a major blow when defender, Sedat Ouro-Akoriko was forced to be substituted after sustaining an injury in the first half. He was replaced by Xolani Slawula. Usuthu grew in confidence after taking the lead as Vilakazi and Butholezwe Ncube started to control the proceeding in the middle of the park.
Usuthu went to the interval leading through Sithebe's strike. The game was played at swift pace and with both sides keeping it on the floor. Baroka began the second half exactly the same way they ended the first half as they were on the front foot.
Their play lacked urgency and killer instinct in the final third. Josephs was hardly tested between the post for Usuthu as Baroka lacked ideas in the last third. Baroka were enjoying possession in their half. Usuthu did well to maintain shape at the back.
The visitors came close to snatch the equaliser when Richard Matloga hit the post midway through the match. Usuthu will now face SuperSport United away on Wednesday while Baroka will welcome Cape Town City at home on the same day.
It wasn't a happy start for the former Kaizer Chiefs player, Wedson Nyirenda on his first game as coach in South Africa. He took over the reigns two months ago replacing Doctor Khumalo who finished the season as the interim coach for Baroka FC. His side has a lot of work to do if they are to compete this season.