Chiefs rule

2014-03-15 23:00

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A whole new Willard Katsande puts Amakhosi firmly on the path to greatness as they seem poised to defend their premiership title

Willard Katsande has often created a negative perception about himself with referees, but the Kaizer Chiefs midfielder today brought Amakhosi the much-needed points in their march towards the defence of the Absa Premiership title.

His headed effort from a Siphiwe Tshabalala corner kick on the hour mark capped a splendid job by the Zimbabwean midfielder, who seemed to be a different person today – usually, even his legitimate tackles are called out as fouls.

For Stuart Baxter and his charges, the Soweto derby was an about turn from a rare loss against Platinum Stars midweek, and an end to a winless streak against their township rivals.

It was also a rude awakening for their former coach Vladimir Vermezovic on the Bucs bench, as well as striker Lehlohonolo Majoro.

Interestingly, Chiefs has not won this derby since the Serbian-born mentor’s acrimonious departure from Naturena in April 2012.

For Orlando Pirates, the defeat lessened their already slim chances of closing in on at the top, despite having game in hand.

The last stretch of the championship race will make for an interesting sprint as Chiefs still have to face fellow contenders Mamelodi Sundowns and Bidvest Wits.

In between, the weeks leading to the last 10 matches of the season will further examine Amakhosi’s title credentials as they also have the CAF Champions League to focus on.

Chiefs resume their continental campaign in a fortnight against AS Vita of the Democratic Republic of Congo – on March 22 and 29.

The defending champions have some form of advantage to bank on as they have four home matches in a row in their pockets, including one against Sundowns on April 5.

In the build-up to this match, there was a perception that Chiefs will struggle without their influential goalkeeper and captain Itumeleng Khune, who is nursing an ankle injury.

His understudy, Reyaad Pieterse, endeared himself to the Amakhosi folklore with some solid saves for a man who was marking his debut in such a nerve-wracking fixture.

This especially after the 22-year-old was beaten twice by Stars on Wednesday when Chiefs suffered their first defeat in 15 matches.

Pieterse made two confident saves early on when he stopped Mpho Makola’s header and a shot from Ayanda Gcaba, both in the space of 10 minutes.

Amakhosi struggled at first because their midfielders could not locate their three-man strike force of Bernard Parker, Knowledge Musona and Kingston Nkhatha.

In one of their few chances in the opening half, Nkhatha failed to connect Tshabalala’s cross following a counterattack.

This was after Pieterse had parried Gcaba’s fierce shot back into play and Chiefs launched a counterattack in retaliation.

Musona should have killed the game at the end, but he sent his curling effort wide.

Despite Pirates bringing in two fresh legs upfront – Majoro and Lennox Bacela – it was Chiefs who looked dangerous in the second half as they preserved the three points to further steer clear from Sundowns and Wits.

Pirates tactics

VV misfired

Formation: 4-3-2-1

Roped in Rooi Mahamutsa in central defence and moved Ayanda Gcaba to left?back in favour of Thabo Matlaba, who was later introduced as an attacking midfielder in the second half.

“VV” deployed Sifiso Myeni and Kermit Erasmus as shadow strikers with Hélder Pelembe in front of them. This proved ineffective as the trio failed to exert the much-needed pressure.

The coach gave Mpho Makola a free role alongside crafters Oupa Manyisa and Thandani Ntshumayelo.

Makola lacked tactical discipline and this exposed Pirates to Siphiwe Tshabalala and Reneilwe Lesholonyane to execute passes over the Bucs’ midfield.

Chiefs tactics

Baxter was spot on

Formation: 4-3-3

He deployed three strikers – Bernard Parker, Knowledge Musona and Kingston Nkhatha – against a four-man Pirates defence.

But it was until late in the match the trio threatened Pirates.?Baxter also sacrificed one defender, Mulomowandau Mathoho, from the team that lost 2-0 to Platinum Stars midweek.

Fullbacks Tsepo Masilela and Siboniso Gaxa – at left back and right back, respectively – were allowed to rove, with Willard Katsande providing cover in that case.

The latter made all the vital interceptions and scored the winning goal.

.?In another league match, Mpumalanga Black Aces continued with their fine form, beating struggling Moroka Swallows 5-2 at Kanyamazane Stadium

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