MARITZBURG United handed AmaZulu a second successive defeat at the start of the new Absa Premiership season, winning the KZN derby at Harry Gwala Stadium 2-0 on Tuesday night thanks to a second half brace from Cuthbert Malajila.
Usuthu came into the game desperate to give an improved performance after being thrashed 6-0 by Kaizer Chiefs in the opening round of the league, but this loss will only serve to put further pressure on coach Roger Palmgren.
As for the Team of Choice, this win takes them to four points from two games (after their opening 1-1 draw away to University of Pretoria) and – temporarily at least – second on the league standings. It represents a solid start to the season for Ernst Middendorp’s side.
Some nerves in the AmaZulu defence almost cost them dearly early on, as goalkeeper Mbongeni Mzimela gifted the ball straight to Cuthbert Malajila with a poor pass, but the Zimbabwean was unable to find the target from a tight angle.
AmaZulu struggled to find any kind of rhythm in open play, with their tactic of looking for lone striker Sifiso Vilakazi with long balls failing to trouble Maritzburg’s defence. However, the former Bidvest Wits striker had a decent chance on 16 minutes when he got on the end of a free kick from Prince Hlela only to put his flicked header over the crossbar.
Two minutes later the hosts threatened to open the scoring when a well-placed Delron Buckley cross allowed Malajila to set up Mthokozisi Yende with a shooting chance, but the on-loan Kaizer Chiefs midfielder pulled his effort wide of the mark.
The only shot on target in the first half came in the 33rd minute from AmaZulu right-back Tsweu Mokoro, a dipping long range effort that bounced awkwardly in front of United goalkeeper Shu-aib Walters and deflected to safety off his shoulder.
Both sides made attacking substitutions at the start of the second half. The Team of Choice withdrew David Booysen and put on Dutch-born attacker Orlando Smeekes, while Usuthu brought on Ayanda Dlamini in place of defensive midfielder Stanley Kgatla, who seemed to be struggling with injury toward the end of the first stanza.
Smeekes showed early on that he possesses a fearsome strike on him, driving a long range free kick on target in the 54th minute – luckily for AmaZulu the shot was directed straight at ‘keeper Mzimela and he made a comfortable save; a metre either side and it may have been a different story.
On 65 minutes Maritzburg finally got the breakthrough that their superior play deserved. Buckley worked his way into a shooting position and tested Mzimela with a low drive – the goalkeeper kept the ball out, but Malajila reacted quickest to the rebound to score his first goal of the season.
And his second followed just 12 minutes later, as the striker sprung the offside trap, raced onto a through ball from Yende, and coolly chipped the ball past the on-rushing goalkeeper to find the back of the net via the inside of the upright.
AmaZulu had a couple of late chances to pick up at least a consolation goal, but Carlington Nyadombo missed a glaring chance from a corner kick, while Ayanda Dlamini saw his long range effort well saved by Walters.
Maritzburg United (0) 2 (Malajila 65’ 77’)
Maritzburg: Walters, Petersen, Awal, M. Booysen, Cloete, Yende (Zulu 83’), D. Booysen (Smeekes 46’), Morton, Buckley, Mandaza (Gyamfi 76’), Malajila
AmaZulu: Mzimela, Mokoro, Nyadombo, Teyise, Hlela, Senamela, Kgatla (A. Dlamini 46’), Zhuwawo, Mbhele (P. Cele 85’), G. Dlamini, Vilakazi (Thwala 69’)-Backpagepix TXT