AmaZulu’s chances of moving closer to the top half of the Absa Premiership standings suffered a setback when they went down 2-1 to Free State Stars at Goble Park on Saturday afternoon.
Moeketsi Mvula gave Ea Lla Koto the lead on the stroke of half time and Danny Venter doubled the lead midway through the second half before Kagiso Senamela scored a late consolation for Usuthu.
The visitors came close to opening the scoring in the fourth minute but Willem Mwedihanga headed wide at the far post from Thokozani Mshengu’s in-swinging corner.
Stars thought they had taken the lead six minutes later when Katlego Mashego nudged in Luyolo Nomandela’s cross-cum-shot, but the goal was ruled out for offside.
Both sides then tried their luck from range with Ayanda Dlamini firing straight at Kennedy Mweene in the 12th minute, while Dove Wome was also unable to beat Tapuwa Kapini at the other end four minutes later.
Goodman Dlamini had a good chance to open the scoring in the 29th minute when a defensive error allowed him to reach Luyanda Hlongwa’s long ball, but he rushed his effort wide of goal.
Ayanda Dlamini continued to ask questions of the Stars defence and in the 37th minute he managed to shake his marker off on the left, only to fire his shot straight at Mweene.
The opening goal eventually arrived in the 44th minute as Wome delivered a cross from the left for Mvula to head home from close range.
Five minutes into the second half it was the away side who threatened to find the back of the net with Thamsanqa Teyise forcing an acrobatic save from Mweene with a well-struck shot from a distance.
However, it was the hosts who increased their advantage in the 71st minute as Venter fired a low shot into the far post after controlling a long pass from Daniel Cardoso.
Craig Rosslee then made a number of attack-minded substitutions with Bongani Ndulula and Joseph Malongoane coming on for Mshengu and Hlongwa, respectively.
Malongoane made his impact felt in the 81st minute as he danced through the Stars defence, but the winger was unfortunate to his effort sailing wide of the post.
However, it was another substitute, Senamela, who eventually managed to get his name on the score sheet five minutes later, beating Mweene with a curled freekick from the edge of the area.
Usuthu pushed on for the equaliser in the closing minutes but Stars stood their ground to hold on for maximum points.
Free State Stars (1) 2 (Mvula 44′, Venter 71′)
AmaZulu (0) 1 (Senamela 86′)
Free State Stars: Mweene, Sambu, Ouro-Akoriko, Gege, Cardoso, Mashego (Venter 68′), Masehe, Nomandela, Mvula (Chivuta 87′), Wome, Wiltwer (Kerspuy 77′)
AmaZulu: Kapini, Teyise, Cele N, Mshengu (Ndulula 77′), Dlamini G, Kgatla, Manqana, Zhuwawo (Senamela 56′), Dlamini A, Willem, Hlongwa (Malongoane 77′)