Cape Town - AmaZulu
made a winning return to the Absa Premiership after edging out Free State
Stars 1-0 in the opening round of action at the King Zwelithini Stadium
in Umlazi on Saturday.
The winning goal was from the penalty spot after 87 minutes as Thapelo Nyongo’s spot-kick struck the left upright and rebounded in off the back of goalkeeper Ali Sangare.
The match was mainly a drab affair, especially after Usuthu were reduced to 10 men when Sadate Ouro-Akoriko was red-carded on 13 minutes. Nhlanhla Vilakazi struck the cross bar for the visitors, before Sifiso Mbhele was dismissed with 13 minutes to play by referee Khulasande Qongqo.
That allowed time for the hosts to fight back and they found the
winner they wanted to ensure a dream return to top-flight football.
AmaZulu began the game brightly with Nkanyiso Zungu put through in some good space on the left, only to blaze over from inside the box, while Mabhuti Khenyeza turned and shot smartly but straight at a defender.
At the other end, Sinethemba Jantjie curled an 18-yard free-kick straight at Boalefa Pule, before the hosts suffered a major blow with the dismissal of Ouro-Akoriko.
Despite being a player down, the home side came close to scoring again after 38 minutes when Khenyeza teed up Zungu on the edge of the box, with the midfielder doing much better this time by firing inches over.
It was goalless at the break and after the restart, former Usuthu attacker Goodman Dlamini came close for Ea Lla Koto with a header that went over from the centre of the penalty area.
The pressure continued from the away side with captain Paulus Masehe curling just wide, while Nhlanhla Vilakazi's long-range drive skimmed the cross-bar on its way over after 70 minutes. The home side then received a huge lifeline with 13 minutes to play as Mbhele was sent for an early shower for his late tackle on Ovidy Karuru.
But Mbhele was then dismissed and Karuru won a penalty with time running out when he was challenged by Masehe, allowing Nyongo the chance to slot home.