Kaizer Chiefs scraped a much-needed 1-0 win over AmaZulu in a DStv Premiership clash at Jonsson Kings Park Stadium on Wednesday afternoon, with Samir Nurkovic scoring the only goal of the game.
The result sees the Amakhosi break a seven-game winless streak which stretched back to October and rise to 10th place on the log, putting a buffer of four points between themselves and the relegation zone. Usuthu remain in ninth place on 10 points, now ahead of Chiefs only on goal difference.
AmaZulu were lucky not to be reduced to 10 men in the early minutes when Thembela Sikhakhane was guilty of a nasty challenge on Happy Mashiane, which saw the Chiefs man stretchered off though fortunately he was able to recover and continue playing.
The hosts put together the first genuine goal threat, with Augustine Mulenga finding space in the penalty area before skewing a left-footed shot wide of the target in the seventh minute.
Four minutes later Chiefs claimed the lead with their first attack. A Dumisani Zuma cross was deflected into the path of Samir Nurkovic, who swept home a low shot to score in his first start of the season.
Usuthu responded well to going behind and put together some promising passages of play in the final third, though often their attackers found themselves facing a wall of gold-and-black-clad players in the penalty area.
The feisty and physical first half – which saw Nurkovic and Tapelo Xoki literally go head-to-head in a heated confrontation in the dying minutes – ended 1-0 in favour of the Amakhosi.
Chiefs were the first to shuffle their pack in the second half, replacing Mashiane (who finally succumbed to the various knocks he suffered) with Lazarous Kambole, but it was the team in green which enjoyed early dominance after the restart.
AmaZulu also looked to shake things up when Luvoyo Memela rose off the bench to replace Xola Mlambo just after the hour mark, and they nearly levelled the game a short while later with a glancing header from Xoki which flashed just wide of the target.
On 77 minutes AmaZulu substitute Lehlohonolo Majoro looked for an equaliser, but he saw his low effort well smothered by Chiefs goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi, as the Soweto side continued to hang onto their lead.
Usuthu continued to push and probe in attack, but a breakthrough never arrived for the hosts, allowing Chiefs to claim a three-pointer which will come as a huge relief given their struggling campaign thus far.
The teams will return to DStv Premiership action this coming weekend, with Chiefs visiting Cape Town City on Saturday 16 January and AmaZulu hosting KwaZulu-Natal rivals Maritzburg United the following day.
Kaizer Chiefs (1) 1 (Nurkovic 11’)
AmaZulu: Mothwa, Sikhakhane, Xoki, Mzava, Gumede, Mlambo (Memela 61’), Makhaula (Ncube 82’), Sithebe, Mulenga, Chawapiwa (Majoro 75’), Mthembu
Chiefs: Akpeyi, Ngezana (Ngcobo 89’), Mphahlele, Cardoso, Zulu, Zuma (Moleko 89’), Matsheke (Baccus 74’), Agay, Mashiane (Kambole 50’), Parker (Blom 74’) Nurkovic