Despite wet conditions and a slippery Mpumalanga Stadium pitch, United produced another display of mobile, dynamic football against determined opponents to remain unbeaten in four matches, and in fourth place.
United’s goals came in a period midway through the second half when, following the introduction of dazzling left-wing Junior Khanye, the team were on fire.
The first goal had a touch of fortune to it. Usuthu goalkeeper Kalililo Kakonje came far out of his penalty box on the right and cleared poorly to Elias Ngwepe on the left line, who chipped in from more than 35 metres.
For the second, Fadlu Davids excellently curled his well-placed free-kick into the bottom right corner after Sipho Mngomezulu was fouled just outside the area.
“I’m very pleased, especially in the first 75 minutes, in which we kept possession, knocked the ball around and bombarded them with crosses from the left and right, just like we planned to,” Igesund said yesterday.
“I’m a bit unhappy with the last 15 minutes because I felt we should have kept possession like we had for the rest of the match, but that’s football.”
AmaZulu will feel they could have shared the spoils having missed some easy chances, and United had a few nervous moments at the back.
In the last 15 minutes man-of-the-match goalkeeper Hunter Gilstrap produced two spectacular saves, and defender Pere Ariweriyai did pull a goal back when he headed in Bafo Biyela’s corner in the 80th minute.
“It was a typical derby game, and end-to-end stuff,” Igesund said. “You could say there was a bit of fortune in our first goal, but it was also a superbly-taken strike that took split-second thinking by Elias, and he still had to put the ball in off a difficult surface.
“Our second goal was very cleverly taken by Fadlu.”
On the performance of American goalkeeper Gilstrap, who has gone from strength to strength in his first three matches in the PSL, Igesund said: “He did very well although there were one or two moments where he looked a bit hesitant.
“He came to me after the game and said the AmaZulu goal was his fault. But he made some crucial saves that meant AmaZulu couldn’t get back into the match.”
Right-wing Mngomezulu and Khanye – coming on in the 56th minute after a scrappy start to the second half – at times ran AmaZulu ragged on the flanks.
“I left Junior out because I knew the conditions were right for him and he would be able to make an impact coming off the bench,” Igesund said.
Due to a Fifa international date and two weekends of Telkom Knockout fixtures, United’s next league match is against champions SuperSport United in Pretoria on October 29.
“I’d have preferred to have played next week again,” Igesund admitted.
“Previously when we had breaks it worked for us because we were playing catch-up, but now we’re on a high and starting to gel.
“I look at SuperSport and think we can do well against them. I think we can do well against any side.
“SuperSport are the champions and have to be respected, but right now I think we are looking forward to that kind of challenge. We’re unbeaten and want to remain that way, and it’s nice to have something to play for.”