It was going to take something special to win this tight Nedbank Cup semifinal between favourites Mamelodi Sundowns and AmaZulu at Potchefstroom’s Olen Park on Sunday.
The piece of individual magic came from Downs Zimbabwean international midfielder whose stunning 66th minute goal earned the Brazilians their place in the final where they face first division giant killers Mpumalanga Black Aces in the Premier Soccer League’s showpiece final on May 24.
Downs won 1-0 after neither side had managed a goal in the first 45 minutes.
But Usuthu will rue two bad misses in each half that could have taken them to the final. But also they badly missed their two injured strikers Siyabonga Mhkwanazi and Dumisani Ngwenya.
This forced coach Clive Barker to use his veteran midfielder John ”Shoes” Moshoeu in a more attacking role. But Usuthu’s lack of punch in attack was the difference at the end of a cup tie that never really got going.
Sundowns finished the first half stronger but it was Usuthu who had the best chance to break the deadlock in a hard fought opening 45 minutes.
AmaZulu started brightly in the sixth minute when Jan Sillo sent over a defence splitting cross that beat the Downs defence and his teammate Mashoeu who would have had an easy tap in had he connected Sillos’s cross.
Four minutes later Downs defender Shere Lekgothoane made a goal-saving tackle when he won the ball from AmaZulu’s Thabo Mabaso inside his penalty area.
But the Brazilians started to take control. Josta Dladla missed a golden chance to put the Pretoria side ahead on 18 minutes but he failed to connect a well directed cross from Lerato Chabangu.
Chabangu had the crowd on their feet in the 35th minute when his 20m rocket shaved the crossbar.
However, the Durban based side should have changed over a goal to the good but Mohammed-Awal Issah missed a glorious chance when he found himself with only keeper Brain Baloyi to beat but sliced his shot wide of the upright with seven minutes of the half remaining.
Chabangu was close again in the 54th minute when he drove a shot form the left wing over the upright.
Four minutes later Downs veteran former Bafana Bafana goalkeeper Baloyi came to the rescue with a match-winning save. Baloyi covered his angles when Mpho Maleka beat the offside trap but found the agile Baloyi too good for him.
The goal was a gem and had the crowd on their feet in the 66th minute when Nyandoro played a neat one-two with substitute and his Zimbabwean teammate Peter Ndlovu and sent in a pile driver from outside the penalty area that gave keeper Kakonje Kalililo no chance.
Ndlovu almost made it 2-0 two minutes from time but the Usuthu keeper did well to fist the shot over his crossbar. – Sapa