Port Elizabeth – A 10-man, relegation-threatened AmaZulu survived an 85-minute siege to gain a valuable 1-1 Premier League draw with Chippa United at the Nelson Mandela Stadium on Friday night.
Referee Victor Gomes’ decision to send off AmaZulu’s Bongi Ntuli in only the fifth minute for a crunching tackle constituted something of a PSL record and left the bottom club in the log fighting for their lives literally from the outset.
Chippa, who enjoyed a stirring sequence of success early in the season on their return to the Premier League, experienced the frustration of failing to make use of their numerical advantage while completing an 11th successive match without a victory.
The supporters of the Port Elizabeth-based club vented their anger on German-born coach Ernst Middendorp over the failure to gain three points against their depleted, struggling opponents.
In the process, Chippa have joined a group of five teams above AmaZulu in the log who are separated by no more than three points and are all candidates to avoid relegation as well.
Ironically it was AmaZulu who took the lead in the 34th minute through a precise header from former Bafana Bafana central defender and captain Mbulelo Mabizela following an equally pin-point free-kick from Sifiso Hlanti.
It required an own goal on the part of AmaZulu defender Sadat Ouro-Akoriko to put Chippa on level terms. This followed after a cross from Erick Chipeta into a packed goalmouth during injury time of the opening period.
The second half was played almost entirely in the Amazulu half of the pitch as the Durban-based team played as though their lives depended on it to salvage a valuable point.
Energy Murambadoro in the AmaZulu goal was continually kept in action during the final 45 minutes while bringing off a series of timely saves.
Chippa had 15 attempts at goal, but the finishing of the home team was often inept and off-target.
“There is no excuse for failing to take advantage of playing against 10 men for 85 minutes. I have faith in my players to ultimately fulfil their potential.
“At the same time I must give credit to AmaZulu for their gritty defending. They produced every trick in the book, but you can understand that when a team is handicapped as they were,” said Middendorp.
AmaZulu coach Steve Barker said he was proud of his players for their heroic performance.
“We needed three points in our battle to avoid relegation and continue the team’s recent revival. This was not a case of shedding two much-needed points. It was a fighting display to come away with a draw with 10 men and deserves credit,” said Barker.