Another last-gasp win for Usuthu

2010-08-30 00:00

A GOAL in the dying seconds from Ayanda Dlamini earned new AmaZulu coach Manqoba Mngqithi a winning start in his side’s 3-2 Premier Soccer League victory over Maritzburg United at Moses Mabhida Stadium yesterday.

On balance of play, Usuthu narrowly shaded domination, and while United came within seconds of beginning their PSL season with what would have been a measured, hard-earned draw, ultimately AmaZulu might have felt they deserved victory.

For the second time in succession AmaZulu snuck a last-gasp win against United, following Bradley Ritson’s injury-time winner that sunk Maritzburg at Harry Gwala Stadium in the Nedbank Cup at the end of last season.

It was AmaZulu’s first league win over United, and the result made for a satisfying start for new Usuthu coach Manqoba Mngqithi.

Their preparation for the 2010/11 season has been United’s most structured yet in the PSL. Coach Ernst Middendorp has retained the core of the squad that showed promise since the German’s arrival midway through last season.

He has resisted the urge to sign big-name PSL players — striker Diyo Sibisi, on loan from Ajax Cape Town, was the only well-known debutant yesterday — rather introducing young blood such as yesterday’s replacements Sheldon Lawrence and Lindani Zungu.

United have set their sights on their first finish in the top eight. They almost managed a hard-earned draw yesterday that would have been a good start in that effort.

Overall, as a first performance of the season, Middendorp was not displeased with a solid and competitive showing.

“If you sleep in the last seconds then you get it,” Middendorp said. “It’s disappointing for us, but tomorrow we begin preparation for our next match [against Kaizer Chiefs at Harry Gwala Stadium on September 8].

“I think the match was not so bad, especially by early season standards. Everyone was a bit nervous on both sides, there were mistakes — and we know we have to stabilise the defence by September 8.”

United had John Arwuah, earmarked as a central defender this season, unavailable due to a work permit delay and inexperienced new signing David Booysen had a tough match to contain AmaZulu’s dangerous trio of forwards — Dlamini, Sibusiso Hadebe and Lehlohonolo Majora.

AmaZulu opened the scoring in the 12th minute, Dlamini getting up ahead of defender James Madidilane to Ntokozo Sikhakhane’s free-kick from the left and flick his header past goalkeeper Shu-aib Walters.

The visitors were on level terms 10 minutes later. Kurt Lentjies’s free-kick, also from the left, was faintly headed at goal by Mor Diouf, where goalkeeper Mbongeni Mzimela parried into the path of Rudolf Bester, who buried his finish at the far post.

Usuthu scored the goal that took them into half-time 2-1 up with a lightning 38th-minute break. A defensive lapse saw the home side breaking with three attackers on two defenders, and AmaZulu capitalised clinically, Sibusiso Hadebe’s cross from the right headed powerfully past Walters by lively new dreadlocked striker Majora.

The scores were levelled in the 53rd minute when midfielder Siphiwe Mkhonza scored a bizarre and unfortunate own goal, intercepting a United pass but seeing the block loop 35 metres over Mzimela, who fumbled the overhead ball into his net.

AmaZulu should have retaken the lead when Majora’s shot was blocked by Walters, and substitute Litha Ngxabi blasted his long-range effort from the rebound onto the crossbar, to be pushed for a corner by Walters.

With AmaZulu pressing in the last 10 minutes, Dlamini scored his side’s winner 30 seconds into injury time, strongly running through two challenges and blasting past Walters.

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