After appearing in the semifinals of the MTN8 and Telkom Knockout Cup – failing to reach the Final in either competition – Usuthu will hope it is third time lucky when they take part in the semi-final of the Nedbank Cup next weekend.
The game got off to a flying start and AmaZulu were awarded an early penalty when Tuks goalkeeper Siya Mngoma rashly came off his line and took out veteran midfielder Thabo Mabaso in the 18-yard area. Usuthu captain Pere Ariweriyai coolly converted the spot kick to put the KwaZulu-Natal side 1-0 up in the eighth minute.
Any momentum Tuks seemed to be building was effectively snuffed out in the 35th minute when Tsweu Mokoro scored to put the ‘Green Machine’ 2-0 up.
The visitors were punished for a shocking inability to clear their lines in a straightforward defensive situation and Mokoro’s low shot from just outside the penalty area found its way though a crowd of players and nestled in the bottom corner of the net.
AmaZulu almost secured a three-goal lead just before the break but Mngoma made a great save to turn a deflected Dumsiani Ngwenya shot around his upright, and the subsequent corner kick saw Warren Bishop’s headed effort cleared off the goal line.
Tuks came out firing in the early stages of the second half and Mzimela had to make an outstanding save to keep out Mbulelo Wambi’s left-footed effort in the 53rd minute. The visitors certainly showed a lot of fight and took a stranglehold of the midfield battle to put themselves in the ascendancy.
Referee Peter Mabuza handed Tuks a late lifeline when he awarded them a controversial penalty for hand-ball by Ariweriyai – television replays suggested that the offence seemed to take place just outside the 18-yard area. Captain Joseph Mthombeni converted from the spot for his fourth goal of the competition.
There was to be no further late drama as AmaZulu held firm in defence and secured a hard-fought victory that seems them through at the expense of last year’s Nedbank Cup runners-up.
AmaZulu: (4-4-2) Mzimela; Biyela, Chintu, Ariweriyai, Bishop; Mabaso, Sangweni, Sikhakhane (Ngxabi 90+3’), Mokoro; Ngwenya (N. Zwane 65’), A. Dlamini
AmaTuks: (4-4-2) Mngoma; Ntusi (Matsi 56’), Omino, Rodrigues, Notyhawe (Zulu 75’); Sibeko, Mthombeni, Wambi, Maebela; Dlamini, Makwakwa (Rusike 46’)