Bucs, AmaZulu make a point
● AmaZulu and Orlando Pirates went toe to toe like two boxers on the offensive in an exciting 1-1 Absa Premiership draw at King Zwelithini Stadium last night.
Augustine Mulenga struck to give Pirates the lead in the 14th minute, Emiliano Tade equalising for Usuthu in the 49th.
Pirates suffered a setback before kickoff, with goalkeeper Siyabonga Mpontshane pulling up with a calf injury in the warm-up and having to be replaced in the starting lineup by Jackson Mabokgwane.
Neither Bucs coach Milutin Sredojevic nor his AmaZulu counterpart Cavin Johnson are known for having their teams sit back. Their uncompromising emphasis on attack made for an entertaining match.
Again, though, Pirates gave a schizophrenic performance. As has been the pattern of late, Bucs largely dominated the first half then became nervy in the second.
Not that AmaZulu were able to dominate the second half. After Tade’s equaliser, the teams matched each other blow for blow.
Bucs’ coaches Sredojevic and Rhulani Mokwane will be scratching their heads at how to solve their team’s nervousness when defending a lead.
AmaZulu picked up a valuable point, and might have had three, but still face a demoralising game of catch-up in avoiding a relegation battle, having had six points docked by Fifa last week for ignoring a Court of Arbitration for Sport ruling regarding their Namibian ex-player Phinheas Nambandi.
Again it was Pirates who came out fired up in the first half, in which they might have had two goals instead of just one.
Bucs took an early lead with a clinical goal. Innocent Maela’s through pass down the left was aimed at the run of Justin Shonga, but intercepted by Thembinkosi Lorch. The forward in turn put Mulenga through to slam a finish emphatically past goalkeeper Siyabonga Mbatha.
Pirates had two more chances as the half drew to a close.
Xola Mlambo latched onto a half-clearance and struck powerfully inside the right upright, Mbatha getting across for a solid save.
Shonga was played into the area by Musa Nyatama but curled a shot round Mbatha’s right post.
Again, as has been their pattern in their last three games, having dominated the opening 45 minutes Pirates became nervy and seemed not to know how to press home their advantage in the second.
It took just four minutes after returning to the pitch for AmaZulu’s Argentine striker Emiliano Tade to get his second PSL goal.
Pirates coach Milutin Sredojevic had tinkered with and disrupted his defence, bringing on Diamond Thopola for Ntsikelelo Nyauza at right-back.
Jabulani Ncobeni shiboboed Thopola, took a return pass and was dispossessed by Jele, Tade gratefully latching onto the loose ball and striking Usuthu’s equaliser.
Almost immediately Brazilian centreback Marcelo Da Silva’s ball over the top found Shonga’s run to beat the offside trap, with the Zambian unable to beat Mbatha.
Tade’s swerving free kick forced an awkward save from Mabokgwane. Then the Argentine took the ball off Nyatama to burst through and square to Bonginkosi Ntuli, this time Mabokgwane making a far more convincing stop.
Innocent Maela’s cross just after the hour found Shonga free at the far post to acrobatically connect with an outstretched leg onto the right upright.
Lorch beat Sadat Ouro-Akoriko down the right and squared. Somehow Shonga, who could have had a second-half hat-trick, made a connection that did not even finish inside the corner flag.
Tade then struck another free kick, this time from further out, with even more venom, Mabokgwane making the diving, onehanded save.