Goals from Musa Nyatama and Thabo Qalinge saw Orlando Pirates claim a 2-1 away win over AmaZulu at King Zwelithini Stadium on Sunday.
The result sees the Buccaneers remain in Absa Premiership title contention, as they closed to within three points of leaders Mamelodi Sundowns (who have a game in hand), while Usuthu remain in 10th place on the log.
AmaZulu started strongly and claimed the lead in the 11th minute: a quick counter attack saw Ovidy Karuru run free down the right flank before providing a perfect low cross for Mabhuti Khenyeza to turn the ball home at the far post, 1-0.
The team in green were then prepared to allow Pirates the majority of possession, but they remained a great threat on the break, with the experience of Siyabonga Nomvethe and Khenyeza combining well with the pace and energy of Mhlengi Cele and Karuru.
The Buccaneers took a while to recover from AmaZulu’s aggressive start, but in the 33rd minute they drew level at 1-1, with Musa Nyatama’s glancing header from Luvoyo Memela’s free kick getting the better of goalkeeper Siyabonga Mbatha.
Pirates suffered an injury blow toward the end of the first half when Thembinkosi Lorch took an awkward fall and appeared to suffer a shoulder injury, necessitating the introduction of Augustine Mulenga at the start of the second stanza.
The visitors looked the likelier scorers after the restart and AmaZulu goalkeeper Mbatha had several heart-in-mouth moments where he wandered off his line to give Pirates hope of a second goal, but somehow the Usuthu defence held firm.
On 74 minutes Mbatha pulled off a superb save, diving low to his right to keep out a low shot from Justin Shonga, before AmaZulu wasted a great chance, as Cele fired high and wide after a free kick delivery was glanced into his path.
AmaZulu’s brave rearguard action finally faltered in the 80th minute, as cross from the left by Innocent Maela was missed by his teammates in the middle, but substitute Thabo Qalinge arrived late to meet the ball and strike a low shot into the back of the net, 2-1 to Bucs.
AmaZulu (1) 1 (Khenyeza 11’)
Orlando Pirates (1) 2 (Nyatama 33’, Qalinge 80’)
AmaZulu: S. Mbatha, Sikhakhane, M. Gumede, Ouro-Akoriko, Mabiliso, Ncube, Mnguni, Cele (Manzini 83’), Karuru, Nomvethe (Ncobeni 73’), Khenyeza (Morton 68’)
Pirates: Mpontshane, Thopola, Jele, Shitolo, Maela, Mlambo, Nyatama, Lorch (Mulenga 46’), Makola (Qalinge 61’), Memela (Munetsi 83’), ShongaShare