A 10-man AmaZulu clinched their place in the semi-finals of the Nedbank Cup when they squeezed past hard running First Division giant killers Pretoria University 2-1 at the Harry Gwala Stadium in their quarterfinal clash played on Saturday night.
But the win was soured when AmaZulu defender Warren Bishop was sent off in the 59th minute by referee Peter Mabuza for a second bookable offence. It means that Bishop's season is over. He faces an automatic two match suspension and if his side reaches the cup final he will not be available.
Bishop, the former Tuks skipper joined Usuthu at the start of the season. He captained AmaTuks in last year's final at the Rand Stadium where they lost 1-0 to Moroka Swallows.
But it got worse when AmaZulu skipper and fellow defender Pere Ariweriyai was booked late in the match ? it was his third of the season and he will miss next weekend's semi-final.
Tuks caught the imagination of local soccer fans when they knocked out three PSL sides on their road to last year's final but this season they were stopped cold by an improved and no nonsense AmaZulu whose experience helped them through to the semi-finals after a tough rear guard action.
Usuthu were first out of the staring blocks and hit the ground running from the kick-off. AmaZulu were rewarded on the eighth minute when captain Ariweriyai slotted home a penalty to put the home side 1-0 ahead.
Mabuza adjudged that Tuks goalkeeper Siya Mngoma had fouled AmaZulu midfielder Thabo Mabaso inside his penalty area and did not hesitate in pointing to the spot. The Tuks keeper was shown the yellow card for the infringement.
That was the goal that steeled AmaZulu nerves and laid the foundation for the improving Usuthu to build on and win through to the last four of the Premier Soccer League's flagship knockout competition.
AmaTuks were stunned and struggled to get back into the game. Tuks Mbulelo Wambi tried his luck with a 25 metre effort in the 25th minute which sailed just wide of the upright.
But the Students started to get their act together and their Swaziland striker Mhlonishwa Dlamini forced AmaZulu keeper Mbongeni Mzimela to parry his close range shot on the half hour. However, there were no Tukkies players on hand to slot home the rebound.
AmaZulu made it 2-0 and took the game away from the First Division giant killers when hard running midfielder Tsweu Mokoro fired through a cluster of players to score with a thunderous left footed drive.
But AmaZulu should have been 3-0 ahead in the 43rd minute when striker Dumisani Ngwenya forced a brilliant save from Mngoma.
Ngwenya fought his way goalwards, worked the ball from his right to his left and unleashed a thunderbolt that Mngoma fisted over his crossbar.
Bishop had his shot cleared off the goalline by Ntusi Njabulo from the resultant corner.
Tuks tried hard to get back into the game after the break. Wambi who showed he was not scared to shoot on sight was thwarted from reducing the deficit when Mzimela pulled of brilliant save from his powerfully struck left footed rocket in the 53rd minute.
Six minutes later Bishop was sent off and Usuthu coach Neil Tovey decided to close up shop and hold onto what they had already won on the field and tried to squeeze the lively Tukkies out of the game.
Mabuza then booked Ariweriyai in the 85th minute. But the card happy referee then caused a great deal of controversy when he awarded Tuks a penalty in the 89th minute after the AmaZulu skipped handled the ball inside his penalty area.
Ariweriyai should have been booked for the deliberate handball but Mabuza who was flashing cards all night let him off the hook.
But consolation for Tuks was a well taken penalty by their captain Joseph Mthombeni to make it 2-1 but it was too little too late to save brave Tuks.