AmaZulu moved back into the top half of the DStv Premiership after they ground out a 0-0 draw away to Marumo Gallants at the Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane on Wednesday night.
Just three days after an heroic but draining performance against Kaizer Chiefs in the MTN8, Usuthu put up a solid rearguard action to hold off a fresh and energetic Bahlabane ba Ntwa, with the point earned taking the Durban side to eighth place on the log.
The first major chance at goal went the way of Marumo in the 10th minute, with AmaZulu goalkeeper Veli Mothwa failing to claim a free kick delivery from the right flank which allowed Ismael Toure a sight of goal, but his scuffed effort was cleared away by Augustine Kwem.
Midway through the first half the hosts created another chance to claim the lead, with Thato Khiba providing a fine low cross from the right flank to pick out the late run of Celimpilo Ngema, but the midfielder blazed his shot off target.
Gallants continued to make all the running and were close to an opening goal on 35 minutes when Riyaaz Nell teed up Lesiba Nku to skip past a defender and shoot on goal, but Mothwa made a fine save at his left-hand upright to keep the score line blank.
The Usuthu ‘keeper made another notable save on 43 minutes, palming away Katlego Otladisa’s long-range shot which took an awkward bounce just ahead of him, while in injury time he deflected a cross from the same player goal-ward, but was bailed out by a clearance off the line from Riaan Hanamub.
AmaZulu succeeded in being more solid in defence early in the second half, though they did not offer any real threat going forward, leading to the introductions of Mxolisi Kunene and Sphesihle Maduna just before the hour mark.
Marumo responded with a triple substitution midway through the second stanza, as Joseph Molangoane, Lucky Mohomi and Ranga Chivaviro came off the bench in an effort to tilt the game in favour of Bahlabane ba Ntwa.
On 71 minutes AmaZulu created the best chance either side had enjoyed to that point, with Thembela Sikhakhane’s excellent pass through the lines allowing George Maluleka to run in on goal, but he dragged his effort wide under pressure from the on-rushing goalkeeper Washington Arubi.
Six minutes later Marumo saw another effort cleared off the line, with Mohomi heading on target at a corner kick, but Kunene was well placed at the back post to keep the score at 0-0.
That proved to be the last clear scoring chance at either end, with Bahlabane ba Ntwa and Usuthu ultimately settling for a share of the spoils.
AmaZulu will have their final DStv Premiership match before a two-month break for the 2022 World Cup when they host Stellenbosch FC on Sunday 30 October.
Marumo Gallants 0
Marumo: Arubi, Khiba, Nkili, Toure, Mabotja, Khumalo, Ngema, Mdlinzo (Mohomi 68’), Nku (Molangoane 68’), Otladisa, Nell (Chivaviro 68’)
AmaZulu: Mothwa, Sikhakhane, Mphahlele, Gumede, Hanamub, Maluleka, Brooks (Kunene 58’), Buchanan, Bwalya, Mhango (Maduna 58’), Kwem (Ndlovu 87’)