Mamelodi Sundowns have seen their unbeaten start to the 2021-22 DStv Premiership season brought to an end after they suffered a 1-0 loss at the hands of AmaZulu at the Kings Park Stadium in Durban on Monday night.
The result – which was secured by a second-half strike from Augustine Mulenga – sees Usuthu extend their unbeaten run to 11 matches and rise to third on the log, level with second-placed Orlando Pirates.
The Brazilians, who had gone 17 games unbeaten since the start of the campaign, nonetheless remain well in control at the top with a 16-point lead over the chasing pack.
Sundowns should have claimed the lead as early as the second minute, as a clever dummy from Peter Shalulile presented Sphelele Mkhulise with a great scoring chance, but the midfielder skewed his shot wide with only goalkeeper Neil Boshoff to beat.
AmaZulu’s first major attacking highlight arrived in the 19th minute when Thabo Qalinge unleashed a fine shot from long range, but Sundowns goalkeeper Denis Onyango pulled off an excellent save to keep the game at 0-0.
The Brazilians suffered an injury blow midway through the first half when versatile defender/midfielder Rivaldo Coetzee appeared to tweak his hamstring, but he was replaced by an equally adaptable player in Mothobi Mvala.
‘Downs dominated the remainder of the first half, but the interval arrived with the teams still locked at 0-0.
The match continued to be a tense arm-wrestle through the first 15 minutes of the second half, until Sundowns had the next clear chance just past the hour mark: Ricardo Nascimento broke free of his marker to meet a corner kick and flicked a header just over the angle of post and crossbar.
AmaZulu then enjoyed a strong spell of dominance and claimed the lead in the 75th minute, with substitute Augustine Mulenga springing the offside trap to run onto Luvoyo Memela’s through ball, before providing a crisp finish past Onyango for 1-0.
Sundowns looked for a quick response and nearly levelled the score three minutes later, with Lyle Lakay’s shot direct from a free kick forcing Boshoff into a sharp save.
Yet that proved to be as close as the champions would come to an equaliser, as Usuthu repelled a late flurry of attacks from the visitors – including an injury-time scramble in the penalty area in which Onyango almost scored a rare goalkeeper’s goal – to secure a famous victory.
The teams will have their final DStv Premiership matches of the year 2021 on Thursday, 23 December: AmaZulu will be away to Orlando Pirates, while Sundowns will host Marumo Gallants.
AmaZulu (0) 1 (Mulenga 75’)
Mamelodi Sundowns 0
AmaZulu: Boshoff, Sikhakhane, Naturena, Xoki, Zulu, Gumede, Buchanan, Makhaula, Qalinge (Khumalo 90+2’), Memela (Mthembu 84’), Ntuli (Mulenga 73’)
Sundowns: D. Onyango, Coetzee (Mvala 24’), Nascimento, De Reuck, Morena, Mkhulise (Maema 77’), Jali, Lakay, Zwane, Shalulile, Safranko.
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