DURBAN - Bafana Bafana star forward, Sibusiso Vilakazi, saved the day for Mamelodi Sundowns as they denied AmaZulu their third successive victory at King Zwelithini Stadium in Umlazi in a thrilling Absa Premiership showdown that produced six goals on Sunday afternoon.
Vilakazi made it 3-3 with four minutes to go before the final whistle. He came on in the second half for Ali Menza. The goal earned Sundowns a much needed point and at the same ended Usuthu's 100% record at home although they are still unbeaten at Umlazi in three outings. Baroka and Free State Stars have all been at the receiving at Umlazi but Sundowns stole the point at the death.
Both coaches, Cavin Johnson at AmaZulu and Pitso Mosimane for Sundowns handed in debuts to their new recruits. Bongi Ntuli led the attack for Usuthu on his second loan spell with the club and Phakamani Mahlambi and Riyaad Pieterse were given their first caps for Masandawana.
Usuthu broke the deadlock as early as five minutes as Butholezwe Ncube dispossessed Andile Jali at the edge of the box and then unleashed a grass cutter which left Pieterse stretching between the post for Masandawana.
It was dream start for Usuthu as both teams were still trying to find their feet. Jali struggled to cope with the pace of the game early on and lost possession cheaply in dangerous positions.
Ntuli was causing all sort of havoc for Sundowns. He operated as the focal point for Usuthu upfront, bulldozing Wayne Arendse and Ricardo Nascimento with his physical strength.
Ncube and Nhlanhla Vilakazi controlled the midfield and didn't allow Hlompo Kekana and Jali the room to orchestrate things in the middle of the park. Thapelo Nyongo should have doubled the lead for Usuthu but Pieterse was equal to the task.
Phakamani Mahlambi levelled matters for Sundowns 28 minutes in to the game. Mahlambi capitilised on the blunder committed by Nyongo who allowed the former Al Ahly man to get infront of him and test Moeneeb Josephs with a low drive.
Josephs pulled off a good save but the ball rebounded into the path of Mahlambi, who tapped it in for his debut goal for Sundowns. From there on Sundowns gradually gained their rhythm with Mahlambi finding space between the back four of Usuthu.
The game was played at swift and frenetic pace with both side attacking. Jabulani Ncobeni hit the post 10 minutes before the interval. Fans were kept on their edge of their seat. It was cold at the stadium but the action was hot in the field of play with both teams displaying vigilant football.
Nyongo was proving to be the weakest link for Usuthu at the back. Tony Silva beat him for pace and went one against one with Josephs who did well to keep his side in the game.
The second half got off to a flying style. Two strikes were netted in a space of three minutes. Firstly it was a moment of brilliance from Silva, who nutmegged Gumede and then beat Josephs on his near post to put his side in the lead.
It didn't take that long for Usuthu to restore parity. Ncobeni pounced from the effort and diligence of Ntuli to slot in the equaliser for Usuthu. Sundowns' lead lasted for two minutes.
Jali regained his confidence in the second half and showed flashes of his best with some delightful passes. Ntuli, on loan from Sundowns, then bit the hand that feeds him as he scored against his parent team 72 minutes into the game. Lack of communication between Arendse and Nascimento allowed Siyethemba Sithebe to flick the ball in to the path of Ntuli, who passed it in to the back of the net.
Sundowns will stay in Durban and prepare for their game against Lamontville Golden Arrows at Princess Magogo Stadium in KwaMashu on Wednesday. They will be hoping to get back to winning ways in the league. They have now drawn three games and won only one.