DURBAN - The Nedbank Cup kickstarted Ubuntu’s First Division survival bid and they continued with that momentum in search of honours as they dumped AmaZulu out with a 3-2 victory at the King Zwelithini Stadium in uMlazi.
The Cape unit bagged their second big league scalp of the cup, having knocked out Polokwane City in the earlier round by the same score. Since that win they have been unbeaten, picking up a draw and two league wins to pull away from the relegation zone.
AmaZulu made a fist of it with two second half goals but the damage was done in the first stanza.
At 2-0 down the home side lost their rhythm as passes went astray at critical moments in attack. That invited further pressure from the stands where their supporters’ agitation told against certain players.
Ubuntu thrived on the lapses. Once they pickpocketed the ball from AmaZulu’s fruitless interpassing they countered with purpose and often through the power of veteran attacker Franklin Cale.
The muscular former international winger largely hugged his favoured left flank but was found centrally whenever Ubuntu burst forward, and the home defence could do little to unglue the ball from his boot.
Around Cale the energetic runners helped bring the goals. Duncan Adonis on the right popped up in the middle to boot in the second, and Kamohelo Mahlatsi and Jesse Donn combined for Clint Fredericks’ headed opener in the seventh minute.
With five changes from their last outing, a 3-1 loss at this venue by Mamelodi Sundowns in the league, AmaZulu struggled for clear cut openings despite dominating possession.
Rhulani Manzini, enjoying a rare start ahead of old timers Siyabonga Nomvete and Mabhuti Khenyeza, was crowded out by Gerome Heutchou-Kuilong and Khanya Gwala in central defence.
Whatever dribblers Ovidy Karuru and Mhlengi Cele served up was like plucking berries from a tree for goalkeeper Buti Khoza in the first period. He was made to work after the interval, but not before the First Division side went 3-0 up.
Fredericks turned provider for Mahlatsi to slot in from close range in the 48th minute for an insurance goal. That meant Ubuntu could play it safe and they allowed AmaZulu the luxury of possession, and countered on the break. With some luck they might have increased their goal tally.
Khenyeza came in for Manzini and winger Augustine Ramphele replaced Tapelo Nyongo as coach Cavin Johnson went for broke. It still left AmaZulu scrounging for a sight of goal against an opponent who grew more confident as the minutes passed.
The Cape outfit even knocked the ball about and held possession for longer periods than in the first half when they arrowed in on goal at lightning pace.
Khenyeza made it a frenetic finish when he bulldozed a goal in with about 15 minutes to play. Cele smacked the ball against the woodwork and Jabulani Ncobeni forced a low parry from Khoza in the dying stages.
Zimbabwean Karuru got AmaZulu’s second in the 90th minute but the fightback was too late as Ubuntu hung on for a deserved victory and a spot in the quarter-finals.