Durban – AmaZulu were given a sense of reality about the toughness of the CAF Champions League as they were held to a goalless draw by TP Mazembe in their CAF Champions League second-preliminary round first leg fixture at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban.
While Usuthu are still alive in the tie, Mazembe would have left Durban the happier side. Benni McCarthy’s charges will now have their work cut out as they will need to find a way to get the better of Mazembe at the Stade TP Mazembe next Saturday, something that few sides manage to do.
McCarthy made a strong statement by making six changes to his side that last played out to a league draw against Kaizer Chiefs prior to the international break. One of Usuthu’s bright stars from last season Augustine Mulenga returned to the starting lineup following a long injury absence but the Zambian and attacking partner Bongi Ntuli failed to carve out too many opportunities.
In the early exchanges of the game, AmaZulu seemed intent on playing from the back while Mazembe pushed on. There were no clear goalscoring opportunities early on as both teams looked to lay a foundation.
The first clear chance was for Mazembe. AmaZulu keeper Veli Mothwa came out smartly to make a save from Joël Beya. The chance came against the run of play but Mothwa spotted the danger early on, coming out of his line.
Mazembe were quick to thwart attacks that were created by Usuthu. Etienne Mayombo later had a shot which was easy pickings for Mothwa.
AmaZulu had their first opportunity through Sphesihle Maduna but his effort was sent over the post of Mazembe goalie Ibrahim Mounkoro.
For Usuthu, Keagan Buchanan was sitting deeper while Tercious Malepe looked to orchestrate attacks. Mazembe left-back Joseph Ochaya later went past the AmaZulu defence though his shot was too easy to save for Mothwa.
AmaZulu set-piece specialist Tapelo Xoki had good free-kick opportunities in each half but failed to capitalize.
Mazembe had a good opening after 72 minutes but it was hit straight towards Mothwa.
Usuthu coach McCarthy will now need to work on a formula that he can use to get the better of Mazembe next week.
He can take inspiration from DSTV Premiership rivals Mamelodi Sundowns who managed to inflict a rare home defeat on the African powerhouse in March, defeating them 2-1 in a Champions League group stage match last season.