Usuthu advance via penalty shootout
A roller-coaster ride of an MTN 8 Cup quarterfinal at the Chatsworth Stadium saw AmaZulu booking their place in the last four at the expense of SuperSport United.
The match ended 1-1 after 90 minutes, and 2-2 after 120 minutes, before the home side triumphed 4-3 in the penalty shootout.
The defending league champions were the more industrious side in the opening 45 minutes and deservingly went into the break a goal up.
After a quiet start to the game, the first real chance of the match materialised in the 16th minute when the ever-threatening Daine Klate drove towards the AmaZulu box before rolling the ball into the path of Anthony Laffor.
However, from just outside the box, the Liberian striker was slightly off target as he tried to pick out the top corner of the net.
Ten minutes later the Tshwane outfit earned themselves a free kick 20 yards from goal. Laffor executed his kick to perfection, picking out the bottom right-hand corner of the net with ease to give Gavin Hunt’s side the lead.
Laffor should have added a second goal in the 30th minute when, following Klate’s cross, the ball was worked to him in the box, but a poor header saw a great chance wasted.
Usuthu’s best chance of the half came in the 34th minute when Dumisani Ngwenya fashioned enough space and time for himself in the United box to get a shot away, but in looking to curl the ball into the far corner, his accuracy was found wanting.
Laffor attempted to make amends in the 39th minute when he threaded Glen Salmon through on goal. Salmon looked to try and slot the ball past the on-rushing Nick Gindre, but the AmaZulu goalkeeper did superbly to make a block with his legs.
Usuthu started the second half brightly, but it was SuperSport who had the best chances early on to score another goal.
Four minutes after the break there was a real let-off for Neil Tovey’s side when Siyabonga Nkosi cut inside and put in a shot-cum-cross to the far post, where Laffor was lurking.
Laffor failed to get a touch, but the ball hit the upright before bouncing back into play, where it narrowly eluded the on-rushing Salmon and ended up in the grateful hands of Gindre.
AmaZulu levelled maters in the 53rd minute when Bradley Ritson broke down the left wing before putting in an inch-perfect cross to the feet of Litha Ngxabi, who made no mistake in slotting past Dennis Onyango from ten yards out.
The remainder of the second half proved to be action packed, providing the crowd with plenty of thrills and spills.
After Bongani Khumalo and Ritson had both wasted opportunities with headers inside the box, Laffor sent his effort, also with the head, crashing against the woodwork in the 74th minute.
There were several more half-chances before the end of regulation time from both sides, but neither goalkeeper was overly troubled.
Extra time provided more entertainment, with both sides having chances to score.
However, it was AmaZulu who seemed to have the edge and the Durban side came agonisingly close to going ahead in the 106th minute when Ayanda Dlamini did well to hustle the ball away from a couple of United defenders, before sending it in the direction of Ritson. Ritson decided his best option was to back-heel the ball into goal, but Khumalo was able to intercept on the line.
With five minutes to go, Usuthu seemed to have scored what appeared to be the winner when AmaZulu debutant Ayanda Dlamini caught SuperSport on the counter-attack, racing clear before showing great composure to slot the ball past Onyango.
The visiting side however kept coming at Usuthu (who were down to ten men after the sending off of Marc van Heerden) in the dying minutes, and the pressure paid off in the final minute of the game when Gindre failed to deal with an aerial ball into the box and former Leopards midfielder Thabo Mongalo was able to head into an empty net.
The penalty shootout was fittingly dramatic. The first penalty, by SuperSport’s Hlompho Kekana, was saved by Gindre.
Bafo Biyela, Rudi Isaacs, Ritson, Laffor, Jan Sillo and Jabu Maluleke then all converted their kicks before Bishop sent his effort crashing against the bar.
But Mongalo sent his penalty into the stands, leaving the skipper, Pere Ariweriyai, to coolly slot home the winner.
AmaZulu: Gindre; Sillo, Ariweriyai, Bishop, Van heerden; N Zwane, Sikhakhane (B Biyela 91’), Ngxabi, J Zwane (Mabaso 56’); Ngwenya (Dlamini 61’), Ritson
SuperSport: Onyango; Isaacs, Khumalo, Gould, Mahoa; Laffor, Kekana, Maluleke, Klate (Langerman 68’); Nkosi (Ramudzuli 106’), Salmon (Mongalo 68’)