In football the best team does not always win, and this was the case today, as Usuthu controlled the game, but failed to make the pressure pay and paid the ultimate cost, conceding a goal in the 89th minute.
The field in Northern KwaZulu-Natal hosted its first ever Absa Premiership match, and what a game it promised to be. Stars had travelled to the coastal city to take on Clive Barker’s men in a clash that would see the winner claim fourth spot on the PSL log, a position which neither team had seen in a while.
All was at stake, and with a place in the top eight assured for both sides, they threw caution to the wind and were willing to attack from the outset. Free State were certainly the favourites from the outset only having lost one game in their last thirteen matches.
AmaZulu, however, have proved one of the most consistent sides in the Premiership this season and created the clearest of opportunities in front of goal during the opening 45 minutes of the match.
In the 14th minute Kampamba Chintu rose above the Ea Lla Koto defence to head the ball goal-wards from an in-swinging corner kick. Kennedy Mweene was on hand for the men from Free State as he produced an acrobatic save to tip the header over the crossbar. A minute later it was the woodwork that denied AmaZulu the game’s opening goal. Pere Ariweriyai snuck in front of the Stars defence to connect with a left wing cross, but his powerful header struck the crossbar from only six yards out.
There were few chances created by either side in the first half as they battled furiously in the midfield to control possession, but neither team took the game by the scruff of the neck and continued to bumble through the half.
AmaZulu’s top goalscorer, Dumisani Ngwenya, did come close to breaking the deadlock just before the break with powerful 25-yard shot. Unfortunately for the home fans his effort sailed just wide of the right-hand upright.
The second half saw Usuthu pass the ball around nicely as they slowly took a strangle hold of the midfield, but they failed to create any real penetration behind the back four of Stars and any decent openings on goal.
In the final ten minutes of the match Usuthu were all over Free State like a bad rash, applying mountains of pressure on the Ea Lla Koto goal. AmaZulu substitute Japhet Zwane nearly clinched the winner in the 81st minute when his eight-yard shot from the left side of the box was cleared off the goal line by Stars defender Jonathan Mensah.
In search of the winner AmaZulu pushed forward in numbers and were always vulnerable to the counter-attack, and they paid the price a minute from time. Against the run of play Olomu scored the game’s only goal with a 20-yard shot that wrong footed the AmaZulu keeper and found the back of the net, 1-0.
The win for Stars means they move to fourth place on the Absa Premiership log and continue on their phenomenal run since the start of 2009, having not lost a single League match.