AmaZulu fightback stuns Birds
Thokozani Mshengu (Backpage)
Durban - Thokozani Mshengu’s stoppage time winner helped AmaZulu fight back from a goal down to end their winless start to the Premiership season with a 2-1 victory over Moroka Swallows in Umlazi, outside Durban, on Wednesday night.
David Mathebula capitalised on some sloppy defence to put the visitors 1-0 up after 36 minutes and it remained that way until Ayanda Dlamini pounced on a goalkeeping error to draw the home side level with 16 minutes to play.
The match looked like it would end in a deadlock until injury time, when Mshengu curled the ball in with his left foot from just outside the penalty area on the right, much to the relief of the partisan home crowd.
The Dube Birds came into the game fresh off lifting the MTN8 cup title at the weekend, while Usuthu were without their coach, Roger Palmgren, who was absent due to a family bereavement, with assistant Fani Madida in the hot seat.
A poor first half saw little goalmouth action until the 26th minute when Bongani Mbele collected the ball from a throw-in on the left, darted into the box and shot from an angle, but his close-range attempt was saved by a late Greg Etafia hand.
Swallows had their first attempt on goal just after the half-hour mark, but Giorgi Nergadze’s shot flew into the stands.
However, the visitors took the lead moments later when the home side's defence failed to close down Mathebula on the edge of the box and the striker’s low shot crept past a wrong-footed Philani Zikalala.
Seconds before the interval, Goodman Dlamini blazed over as the home crowd were left frustrated.
After the resumption, Ayanda Dlamini managed to find the target with his head, but it was directed straight at Etafia, from Tsweu Mokoro’s cross, with Kagiso Senamela then toeing another good chance just wide.
At the other end, an error from the Usuthu defence allowed Siyabonga Nomvethe in, but the veteran striker sent his one-on-one chance too close to Zikalala, who turned the ball wide.
Substitute Lerato Chabangu almost scored with his first touch after 61 minutes, which was instead dragged wide, while Mbele had a strong penalty appeal turned down, adding more frustration for the AmaZulu players.
Marc van Heerden almost narrowed the gap when his free-kick from the right was punched away on the line by Etafia as the home team got closer.
Their reward finally arrived in the 74th minute when another Van Heerden set-piece from 25 metres out was punched straight into the path of three Usuthu forwards - Dlamini reacting the quickest to draw the scores level with a tap in.
To their credit, both sides continued to chase the winner in the closing stages, and the hosts managed to find one a minute into additional time when Mshengu sealed their first victory of the season.