AmaZulu fought back from a goal down to claim a 1-1 draw with local rivals Royal AM in a DStv Premiership clash at the Moses Mabhida Stadium on Saturday evening.
Bonginkosi Ntuli scored a brilliant equaliser for Usuthu late in the game, cancelling out an earlier opener from Thwihli Thwahla’s Ruzaigh Gamildien. The result sees Romain Folz’s team rise to 11th place on the log.
The match got off to something of a false start, with an early halt due to a light issue at the venue which took roughly 12 minutes to resolve.
Once back underway, Royal enjoyed more of the possession and attacking impetus, though chances were few and far between for the team in white and gold, with AmaZulu’s compact defence proving tough to break down.
The hosts did, however, have a couple of nervy moments, most notably when goalkeeper Veli Mothwa allowed a cross from a corner kick to slip through his hands, but he was bailed out by the quick reactions of Riaan Hanamub.
Usuthu had few attacking moments but looked dangerous whenever they were able to break forward, with right back Thembela Sikhakhane driving a dangerous cross-shot into the penalty area on 36 minutes which had the Thwihli Thwahla defence scrambling.
AmaZulu also needed Mbongeni Gumede to make a crucial clearance in defence after Royal had managed to draw Mothwa off his line and open up a chance to break the deadlock a short while before a lengthy spell of added time (due to the earlier floodlight problems).
The first half closed with the teams locked at 0-0, but it took just seven minutes of the second stanza for the deadlock to be broken. Royal claimed a 1-0 lead after Ruzaigh Gamildien picked up an incisive pass from Shaune Mogaila on the edge of the box and fired home a low, left-footed shot which had the beating of Mothwa.
AmaZulu thought they had claimed an equaliser on 54 minutes when Hanamub’s cross was poorly dealt with by two Royal defenders – allowing Hendrick Ekstein to steer a shot home via the inside of the post – but the goal was scrapped due to offside. TV replays suggested the match officials erred and the equaliser should have been allowed to stand.
Ten minutes later AmaZulu almost levelled the game via substitute Bonginkosi Ntuli, who narrowly missed out on re-directing Ramahlwe Mphahlele’s flick-on from a throw-in, and shortly thereafter Sikhakhane clipped the top of the crossbar with a shot after Royal had been unable to clear their lines from a corner kick.
The match opened up for the last quarter hour, with the teams trading scoring chances on a regular basis, but AmaZulu finally drew level in the 87th minute with a beautiful strike from Ntuli. The striker latched onto a poor headed clearance and, from the ‘D’ of the box, cracked home a left-footed volley for 1-1.
The teams will return to DStv Premiership action next weekend, with Royal at home to Sekhukhune United on Saturday 4 March, while AmaZulu will visit Chippa United on Sunday 5 March.
AmaZulu (0) 1 (Ntuli 87’)
Royal AM (0) 1 (Gamildien 52’)
AmaZulu: Mothwa, Sikhakhane, Mphahlele, Gumede, Hanamub, Malepe, Maluleka (Brooks 86’), Ekstein (Maduna 64’), Manziba (Ntuli 64’), Mhango, Dion
Royal: Nyame, Rikhotso (Stoffels 60’), Manganyi, Lingwati, Matlaba, Masuku (Cele 86’), Kobedi, Pelembe (Msomi 74’), Mogaila, Potsane (Mashiane 86’), Gamildien (Ncobeni 86’)