Chiefs narrow the gap

2011-01-08 18:42

Kaizer Chiefs delivered what they were required to, with a result that has now narrowed the gap at the top of the Absa Premiership table to a single point.

With a four-point difference between the two sides prior to kick-off yesterday, an outright victory was needed to boost Amakhosi’s title aspirations, while Sundowns dropped yet more crucial points against fellow championship contenders: Orlando Pirates were the other beneficiaries in October.

Yesterday’s defeat, Sundowns’ fourth loss of the campaign, was mostly welcomed by the sides inside the top-five bracket as it will put pressure on the Brazilians, who have held a grip on pole position for about three months.

After taking the rap from club fans for most of the game, Kaizer Motaung Junior justified his prolonged stay on the pitch to score with a well-taken header after 57 minutes, his first of the season, to decide what had until then been an evenly contested tie.

Positional discipline and minimal errors characterised the opening half, with neither side ­eager to open up. Chiefs left it until late to take the game from their ­opponents, while goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune kept the team in the game with stupendous saves.

After being in the back pocket of Sundowns’ defence for most of the half, the league’s top scorer, Knowledge Musona, made two snap attempts in the 36th and 37th minutes to produce the game’s first real attempt at goal.

Musona was cast in the shadows due to a lack of coordination with his co-striker, Motaung Junior who, with due respect, was fortunate to even last an entire half. That was, until he justified his coach’s trust in him by converting Siphiwe Tshabalala’s swift cross from the left.

After a rather tense start the visitors launched the first surge when they probed Amakhosi with a break, but they averted the danger after Dominic Isaacs provided a timely block on Lebohang Mokoena’s shot 12 minutes into the tie.

The counter-attack was just one of a few that were the highlight of Sundowns’ approach in the beginning, with Mabhuti Khenyeza and Mokoena providing the much-needed pace.

As much as play was smooth, dirty play often interrupted the proceedings and Reneilwe ­Letsholonyane was the first to be cautioned when he hacked Franklin Cale from behind just after the quarter-hour mark.

Letsholonyane’s team-mate, Valery Nahayo, also went into ­referee Lwandile Mfiki’s book for ­dangerous play.

Suspensions towards the Christmas break meant changes were inevitable in the two sides’ starting line-ups yesterday.

The hosts’ mentor, Vladimir Vermezovic, made three changes to the team that beat Mpumalanga Black Aces on December 22.

Khune replaced Arthur Bartman while Nahayo and Tshabalala reclaimed their berths in defence and midfield respectively.

Similarly, coach Antonio Habas welcomed back from suspension the central midfield duo of Esrom Nyandoro and Matthew Pattison, while Method Mwanjale, Siyabonga Ngubane and Franklin Cale made up the quintet that were not part of the side that lost 3-2 to AmaZulu in the Brazilians’ year-end fixture.

As far as the attendance was concerned, the World Cup final venue again proved to be an arena too big to fill as it made the 42?000 crowd looked average.

»?Other results: AmaZulu 1, Ajax Cape Town 2.

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