Qalinge inspired-AmaZulu FC close gap on Mamelodi Sundowns
AmaZulu FC maintained their scintillating form under coach Benni McCarthy on Friday evening by securing a win over Stellenbosch FC.
Usuthu claimed a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Stellies at Danie Craven Stadium to extend their winning run to six matches in the PSL.
McCarthy's side started the match slowly and this allowed the hosts to dominate the game and push for the opening goal.
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Ashley du Preez had a chance to hand the Stellies an early lead, but he dragged his shot wide of the target, before AmaZulu goalkeeper Veli Mothwa denied Junior Mendieta with a great save.
AmaZulu did threaten on the stroke of the half-time when Siyethemba Sithebe forced Stellenbosch goalkeeper Sage Stephens into a diving save.
Stellenbosch continued to control the game after the restart and they were unlucky not to break the deadlock when new South Africa under-23 international Du Preez hit the post.
McCarthy then introduced former SuperSport United winger Thabo Qalinge, who made his official debut for Usuthu against Black Leopards last weekend.
It was end-to-end stuff in the closing stages of the game and Stellies had two great chances to score after the Usuthu defence was exposed when the visitors had pushed forward.
However, AmaZulu were rescued by new Bafana Bafana international Mothwa, who pulled off fantastic saves to deny Du Preez and Stanley Dimgba in quick succession.
The hosts were left rue to those two goalscoring opportunities as AmaZulu grabbed a late winning goal through their super-sub Qalinge.
The 29-year-old rounded Stephens, before hitting the back of the net to hand AmaZulu a 1-0 win in stoppage time with Sithebe providing the assist.
It was Qalinge's maiden goal since November 2018 when he netted for Orlando Pirates in a 5-1 win over Seychelles side Light Stars in the Caf Confederation Cup at Orlando Stadium.
AmaZulu are now unbeaten in 12 matches in the league under Bafana legend McCarthy, who has transformed Usuthu into potential PSL title contenders.
The win over Stellenbosch saw Usuthu climb up to second place on the league standings - three points behind leaders Mamelodi Sundowns, who have three games in hand.
AmaZulu are set to face Sundowns on April 21, while Stellenbosch, who are placed 11th on the standings, will face Leopards on the same day.