Durban - Bongani Ndulula’s crisp finish midway through the first half was enough to send AmaZulu joint-top of the Premiership table after a narrow 1-0 victory over Moroka Swallows at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban on Saturday.
The striker scored crashed home from eight yards out, after 23 minutes, when he collected a low left-sided cross from the persistent Nkosinathi Mthiyane to help Usuthu make it three wins from four games this season.
Their nine-point total put them alongside SuperSport United on the summit, although they do have an inferior goal difference to the Pretoria outfit, who have a game in hand which they play on Sunday.
The hosts were almost off to a flier on a warm evening in the coastal city, but Ndulula hurriedly pushed his shot wide from the centre of the six-yard box after collecting a short pass from Mohammed-Awal Issah.
Craig Rosslee’s men continued to enjoy the better of play, although they were left off the hook in the 14th minute when Edward Manqele capitalised on some poor defending, only to wastefully shoot wide with just goalkeeper Tapuwa Kapini to beat from 12 yards out.
Dikgang Mabalane then forced the home keeper to acrobatically tip over as he cut in from the wing after he had initially peeled away to the left to collect a searching ball from Lerato Chabangu.
AmaZulu then went in front midway through the half when the ball fell kindly for Mthiyane after his determined attempt to skip past two defenders on the left and then squared for Ndulula to thump in.
The Birds had a good chance to hit back in the 39th minute when Mabalane danced past two defenders on the right, before his low cross-goal shot evaded two of his team-mates and Lefa Tsutsulupa’s eventual shot was deflected over.
Chabangu then wastefully sent a 20-yard free-kick over the bar as Usuthu took their slim lead into the break.
After the restart Kulegani Madondo’s first-time shot lacked power but not direction, forcing Greg Etafia to tip over.
Njabulo Manqana showed good pace after the hour mark when he combined with Larry Horaeb down the right, before slicing into the side netting.
As the game wore on, Swallows struggled to carve out too many clear-cut openings despite enjoying the major share of possession through the second half.
The closest they came were via Mabalane and Chabanga half-chances -- the latter also nearly curled in from a corner kick that was tipped over by Kapini -- with the Durban side holding on.