AmaZulu suffered a narrow 1-0 loss at the hands of DStv Premiership leaders Mamelodi Sundowns at the King Zwelithini Stadium on Wednesday. Usuthu, who have now lost three successive matches across all competitions, put in a strong showing against the Brazilians, but ultimately succumbed on the back of a first-half penalty from the visitors’ Lucas Ribeiro.
It was a cagey start for both teams who had to grapple with slippery conditions. The result sees the Durban club drop to 12th place on the standings, while Sundowns have opened a five-point lead at the top of the log.
The first half took a bit of time for both teams to get a rhythm due to the unfavourable weather conditions but it took Sundowns 20 minutes to draw first blood. Sundowns were awarded a penalty as Mbongeni Gumede dragged Themba Zwane to the ground in the box, which also saw him to be issued a booking. Lucas Ribeiro converted the penalty which saw Downs take the lead.
Tempers boiled over both on and off the field in the wake of a relatively innocuous challenge from Ethan Brooks on Sphelele Mkhulise in midfield, before ‘Downs nearly claimed a second goal just past the half hour mark.
Teboho Mokoena’s defence-splitting pass was mis-controlled by Allende, but this allowed Peter Shalulile time and space to pick his spot, though his effort was turned away by the strong hands of AmaZulu debutant goalkeeper Olwethu Mzimela.
Usuthu enjoyed three chances late in the first half, all of which fell the way of Tshepang Moremi. With the first he forced a sharp save from goalkeeper Ronwen Williams; the second drifted wide of the mark; and the third was denied by a brilliant block from Mosa Lebusa.
By this stage of the match Sundowns had begun to make mistakes in defence, a trend which continued early in the second half as Moremi and Sede Junior Dion had a couple of half chances which they weren’t quite able to capitalise on.
On 65 minutes AmaZulu had the ball in the back of the net via Hendrick Ekstein, but the effort was ruled out for an offside which television replays suggested was an incredibly tight call.
The Brazilians had problems to deal with at the defensive end, but they remained potent at the other and forced several saves from Mzimela via the boots of Shalulile, Zwane and Mokoena.
Yet the match ultimately ended 1-0 in favour of the team in yellow, with Usuthu unable to find a way to draw level.
AmaZulu will be back in DStv Premiership action next Wednesday, 13 December, when they host Sekhukhune United.
Mamelodi Sundowns (1) 1 (Ribeiro 21’ pen)
AmaZulu: Mzimela, Sikhakhane (Ngema 39’), Fielies (Mbanjwa 87’), Gumede, Hanamub, Jooste, Mobara, Brooks, Ekstein (Ndlovu 87’), Moremi, Dion
Sundowns: Williams, Mudau, Kekana, Lebusa, Boutouil (Mashego 90+2’), Mokoena, Mkhulise (Maboe 75’), Allende (Morena 67’), Zwane, Shalulile (Nasir 90+2’), Ribeiro (Nku 67’)