Mamelodi Sundowns are invincible no more. AmaZulu were the team to inflict Masandawana’s first DStv Premiership defeat of the season, substitute Augustine Mulenga’s strike yesterday enough to hand Benni McCarthy’s Usuthu the three points at the King’s Park Stadium.
Sundowns’ desperation to keep their record was there for all to see as goalkeeper Denis Onyango surged forward in stoppage time for a corner, but AmaZulu ‘keeper Neil Boshoff dove to gather at the Ugandan’s feet, and AmaZulu could celebrate a famous victory.
The Tshwane giants remain an absurd 16 points clear at the top of the table, with this just one loss in 18 games, and it seems unlikely this defeat will mean much in terms of their procession towards a fifth straight Premiership title.
Nevertheless, it was a strangely blunt performance from the Brazilians, and AmaZulu were worthy of the three points, ceding plenty of possession, but creating most of the better opportunities.
This was Benni McCarthy’s side’s second win in a few days, and they remain level on points with second-placed Orlando Pirates, who they play on Thursday.
Pavol Safranko was the only change to the Sundowns starting line-up from the side that beat Orlando Pirates 4-1 on Friday.
The striker was rewarded for his second half double as a substitute against the Buccaneers, and replaced the injured Masandawana defender Grant Kekana.
Sphelele Mkhulise had the best chance of the early stages, the ball falling to the attacking midfielder inside the area, but he failed to test Boshoff, in the Usuthu goal for the second game running.
Masandawana dominated possession, but Usuthu looked dangerous going forward all the same. Luvuyo Memela sent in a cross that just missed Lehlohonolo Majoro, but Lyle Lakay was inches away from diverting the ball into his own net.
Bongi Ntuli then got to the byline and pulled the ball back, but Denis Onyango gathered, and the Ugandan goalkeeper pulled off a fantastic save not long after, tipping over Thabo Qalinge’s screamer.
Sundowns were dealt a blow in the 23rd minute, as Rivaldo Coetzee’s bad luck with injuries continued, the midfielder forced off with a hamstring problem, with Mothobi Mvala coming on in his place.
In the 36th minute, Themba Zwane played a good one-two with Mkhulise, but his shot was not so classy, easily gathered by Boshoff.
After the break, both sides continued to press for a winner, but both defences were dominant, Rushine De Reuck putting in some key challenges for Sundowns, while Thapelo Xoki was a rock at the back for Usuthu.
Slowly, however, AmaZulu started to create some openings, Qalinge failing to put enough power behind one shot, before McCarthy brought on Mulenga for Ntuli in the 73rd minute.
And just two minutes later, Memela slid the Zambian in, and he cooly beat Onyango with Ricardo Nascimento pleading in vain for an offside flag.
The strike was just Mulenga’s second of the season in the league for Usuthu, having also netted against Cape Town City in November.