Mamelodi Sundowns got their title defence off to a winning start with a 1-0 victory over AmaZulu in the opening game of the 2021/22 DStv Premiership season at Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Tshwane on Friday.
Themba Zwane scored the only goal of the match on the cusp of half-time to lead the Brazilians to all three points and to the top of the league standings.
After a delay in play due to Kennedy Mweene having to rush to the changing rooms for unspecified reasons, the game got off to a rather flat start as has often been the case in season openers.
The first shot in real anger fell to Haashim Domingo in the 33rd minute of the match. The ball fell favourably for the Sundowns playmaker on the edge of the area, but he could only succeed in fizzing his low effort wide of Veli Mothwa’s goal.
With no chances forthcoming the two teams looked set to enter the half-time break at level-pegging, but a lapse in concentration from Thembela Sikhakhane handed Sundowns a golden chance to break the deadlock. The Usuthu right-back chopped down Peter Shalulile inside the penalty area, leaving the referee with little choice but to point to the spot. Zwane duly stepped up and sent Mothwa the wrong way for the opening goal of the campaign.
Benni McCarthy fired up his troops at half-time and AmaZulu came out firing after the break with Tapelo Xoki heading inches wide two minutes into the half.
AmaZulu continued to push for the equaliser and looked sure to score following a defensive mix-up in the Sundowns penalty area, but Rushine de Reuck pulled off a superb last-ditch tackle to deny Lehlohonolo Majoro from point-blank range to spare his team’s blushes.
Usuthu continued to look the more likely to score next despite flashes from Sundowns on the counter-attack, but in the end the hosts held on to get their campaign off to the perfect start.