AmaZulu moved to the top of the DStv Premiership on Saturday, as they staved off a late rally from Golden Arrows to edge a KZN derby 1-0 at the Sugar Ray Xulu Stadium.
Usuthu are two points clear at the top of the table, and while Mamelodi Sundowns have three games in hand, including tomorrow’s game at Orlando Pirates, it is Benni McCarthy’s side who have the momentum, with this their ninth victory in their last ten league games.
AmaZulu were the more attacking side from the off and Lehohonolo Majoro showed a superb turn of speed to breeze past Thabani Zuke and pick out Thabo Qalinge at the back post, but his effort was valiantly blocked by Seth Parusnath.
Memela then had a shot that was well pushed away by Arrows goalkeeper Sifiso Mlungwana, while Majoro curled an effort inches wide of the far post.
Majoro is enjoying a fine season at Usuthu and was again a danger here, so much so that as he burst through on goal late in the first half, Nkosinathi Sibisi could only hack him down and picked up a yellow card.
It looked like Arrows would hold on until the break, but in first half stoppage time Augustine Mulenga set up Memela, and his left-footed shot beat Mlungwana and found the far corner of the net.
Mandla Ncikazi made a double change at half time, taking off Parusnath and Michael Gumede, and bringing on Ntsako Makhubela and Lindokuhle Mtshali.
Arrows did push forward more in search of an equaliser but that left AmaZulu more space on the break, and a Mulenga effort was just about kept out by Mlungwana.
Usuthu really should have doubled their lead in the 64th minute, as Majoro burst onto Memela’s pass and with only Mlungwana to beat, he curled his effort wide of goal, much to McCarthy’s frustration on the touchline.
Arrows’ attacks were sporadic, but in the 68th minute, Pule Mmodi broke away down the right and was cynically hacked down by Thapelo Xoki, who was shown a yellow card.
Ncikazi threw on Nduduzo Sibiya and he almost immediately had a chance, his strike hitting Siyethemba Sithebe, with Arrows’ appeals for a penalty for handball correctly waved away.
Arrows were piling on the pressure, but Usuthu were resilient in defence and were unlucky as Sithebe burst away on a break, and was incorrectly ruled offside, after he was inside his own half when the pass to send him clear of the Arrows defence was played.
The closest Arrows came to scoring was a couple of minutes from the end of normal time, as AmaZulu defender Siphelele Magubane attempted to clear Knox Mutizwa’s header, and ended up slicing the ball against his own post.