AmaZulu were unable to secure a third successive DStv Premiership triumph after they were held to a 0-0 draw by hosts Polokwane City at the Old Peter Mokaba Stadium on Monday.
Usuthu, who rose to sixth place on the back of this result, created the better opportunities and were also denied a stonewall penalty in the first half.
Scoring chances were few and far between through the first half, with both teams struggling to trouble goalkeepers Manuel Sapunga and Veli Mothwa.
The main talking point of the first half was a controversial incident in the 35th minute which should have resulted in a penalty for AmaZulu.
Following an attack from the visitors which fizzled out, Sapunga took a short goal kick to Bulelani Nikani, who was still in the 18-yard box. However, the defender appeared to believe that he was taking a free kick in his position and stopped the ball with his hand.
This was a clear, deliberate handling of the ball in the box (albeit due to a misunderstanding rather than an infringement) and should have given Usuthu a spot kick, yet the match officials either didn’t fully understand what had occurred or chose to ignore it – much to the fury of AmaZulu’s players and technical team.
Both teams made changes at the start of the second half, with Polokwane replacing Mokibelo Ramabu and Nyakala Raphadu with Ndumiso Mabena and Stevens Goovadia, while AmaZulu swapped out Victor Letsoalo for Sede Dion.
Usuthu looked the more likely scorers early in the second stanza, with Augustine Kwem and Tshepang Moremi both missing out on fine chances created by the vision of Ethan Brooks, while City gradually began to assert themselves after the hour mark.
Yet the Durban side found their attacking rhythm with around 10 minutes to play, as Riaan Hanamub blasted wide from a tight angle, before Dion saw his goal-bound effort well saved by Sapunga.
The Rise and Shine goalkeeper made another notable intervention on 87 minutes when he clawed away Ramahlwe Mphahlele’s header, as AmaZulu piled on the pressure in the final portion of the match.
Polokwane also enjoyed a late flurry in injury time, but they too lacked the necessary precision to break the deadlock, leaving the game to close with a 0-0 score line.
AmaZulu will return to DStv Premiership action on Friday 29 September when they visit Moroka Swallows at the Dobsonville Stadium.
Polokwane City 0
Polokwane: Sapunga, Matuludi, Nikani, Nkaki, Nkwe (Kambala 66’), Raphadu (Mabena 46’), Maphangule (F. Baloyi 66’), Mashikinya (Ngwepe 82’), Ramabu (Goovadia 46’), Appollis, Mapfumo
AmaZulu: Mothwa, Mphahlele, Zulu, Fielies, Sikhakhane (Human 89’), Moremi (Jooste 89’), Mobara, Brooks, Hanamub, Letsoalo (Dion 46’), Kwem (Ngema 76’)