Benni McCarthy sets AmaZulu alight: ‘I’m just happy for the Zulu nation’
AmaZulu coach Benni McCarthy has said he is just “happy for the Zulu nation” as his team sit in unheard of territory in second place in the DStv Premiership with eight games to go after a stubborn 1-0 away win against Stellenbosch FC on Friday night.
McCarthy admitted AmaZulu rode their luck in the second half against competitive Stellenbosch at Danie Craven Stadium‚ Usuthu toughing out another impressive result as Thabo Qalinge came off the bench to score a dramatic 92nd-minute winner.
That took AmaZulu (40 points from 22 games) to a fifth straight win. A single defeat in 12 games (plus 10 wins and a draw) has seen the long-ailing KwaZulu-Natal team shoot up the log to be challenging leaders Mamelodi Sundowns (43 from 19) in the final third of the season.
Since the 1990s‚ Usuthu have fought relegation‚ been relegated‚ fought their way back to the top-flight and generally hovered in mid-to-lower table under a succession of owners.
The famous KwaZulu-Natal team’s new owner‚ Sandile Zungu‚ has shown in a short space of time that genuine financial investment and apparent professional administration‚ with strong signings and a coach like McCarthy roped in‚ can yield results.
“It was a tough game. You know that Stellenbosch are very physical‚ they have a lot of speed in their team‚” McCarthy said after the win.
“I think our travels to Thohoyandou [AmaZulu beat Black Leopards 1-0 on Saturday]‚ three days back in Durban and then travel to Cape Town didn’t really help our recovery process. And‚ ja‚ you could see it.
“The first half we were decent. In the second half Stellenbosch really came out and made a game of it. If they had taken their chances they could have probably walked away with the three points because they had glorious chances‚ but lady luck was on our side.
“And now we go six games with a clean sheet for Veli [Mothwa‚ Usuthu’s goalkeeper]‚ so that is an amazing record.
“We knew it wasn’t our best moment in the second half‚ because Stellenbosch made it really difficult for us. So we made the positive changes.
“I’m very pleased for ‘Section 10’ [Qalinge] to have come in‚ and he looked lively‚ and like a player who can give is the edge. He showed composure with the opportunity to score the winning goal.
“So‚ yeah‚ I’m a very happy coach. Now we go to 40 points.
“And it’s just happy days‚ and happy for the Zulu nation. Because to find AmaZulu at second place with eight games to go‚ it’s remarkable. It’s something that’s unfamiliar with AmaZulu.
“So I hope they [the supporters] are proud of this team‚ and what this team is doing at the moment for KwaZulu-Natal.”
AmaZulu’s highest finish in the Premier Soccer League era that started in the 1996-97 season is seventh in 2011-12‚ and they managed the top eight on just one other occasion when they placed eighth in 2008-09. They spent six of those seasons in the National First Division.