AmaZulu finally make it to a cup final

2010-05-17 00:00

AFTER a 19-year wait for a cup final, AmaZulu finally succeeded in getting there after putting up a strong performance against Mamelodi Sundowns in a drama-filled Nedbank Cup semi-final at King’s Park on Saturday night.

AmaZulu, who last won a cup in 1992 — beating Kaizer Chiefs in the Coca-Cola final in Gauteng — won Saturday’s penalties lottery 4-3 after the game had ended at 1-1 at extra time.

Usuthu will now meet Wits University, who beat Free State Stars 3-1 on Saturday, in the final at Soccer City on Saturday.

It took an injury-time equaliser for AmaZulu to claw their way back into the game, substitute Sandile Gumede heading in Siphiwe Mkhonza’s trademark long throw. Lebohang Mokoena had handed Sundowns a deserved lead in the 79th minute.

Making AmaZulu’s victory commendable was that they were reduced to 10 men after winger Thabo Mabaso was controversially sent off by referee Abdul Ebrahim with 10 minutes to go.

At that time, the Durban-based team had failed to take the lead, with winger Tsweu Mokoro failing to beat Sundowns goalie Brian Baloyi from a penalty spot in the 37th minute.

Adding to that, three key defenders — Pere Ariwerayi, Warren Bishop and Marc van Heerden — were absent due to suspension. But the Usuthu soldiered on.

This impressive performance drew praise from coach Neil Tovey.

“I must convey a big thank-you to my players for putting up a good show. It’s been long overdue … our fans have been waiting for a long, long time for this moment,” said Tovey.

The former Bafana Bafana skipper, who will be bidding for his first cup as a coach, added: “We have a three-year plan, and making three semi-finals [MTN 8, Telkom Knock-out and Nedbank] and the final shows where this club is going. Good times are in the offing for this club.”

AmaZulu should thank their Argentinian goalkeeper, Nick Grinde, for this victory.

Just like he did against SuperSport United in the MTN 8 quarter-finals, Gindre’s heroics during the penalty shoot-out elevated him to hero status. He saved kicks from Mathew Pattison, Luvhengo Mungomeni and Benedict Vilakazi.

While Mkhonza and Mokoro missed their penalties, Abdullahi Ishaka, Gumede and Litha Ngxabi converted their kicks.

Sundowns interim coach Trott Moloto showered the winning team with praise, saying AmaZulu deserved to go through.

“They never gave up. Their long balls, especially Mkhonza’s long throw-ins, troubled us. Once we went to sleep, they pounced and that brought them back into the game.”

Despite ending the season with no silverware, Moloto said the expensively assembled ­Pretoria side have had a fair season.

 

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