While Orlando Pirates laboured to yet another goalless draw, Kaizer Chiefs got back to their winning ways – extending their lead at the top to six points. Amakhosi solidified their position on top of the league table in their race to win thAbsa Premiership title, while Pirates floundered in their first match at Ellis Park in more than a decade.
Chiefs are now in pole position in the final stretch of the league race. Pirates’ struggle for form continued when they were held to a goalless draw by Bidvest Wits last night.
An eight-minute-long flurry in the second half, spearheaded by the self-proclaimed “Boss ya Mboka” Willard Katsande, saw Chiefs score three goals to secure a 3-2 come-from-behind victory over Polokwane City at Loftus Versfeld yesterday.
Amakhosi looked down and out after going two goals down early in the first half, but second half substitute Katsande led the fightback. The Zimbabwean pulled back the first goal in the 71st minute with a header. Anthony Agay scored the equaliser in the 75th minute, before Samir Nurkovic grabbed the winner a minute later.
City looked to be cruising to another win over the Soweto giants, but it was not to be as Chiefs showed immense grit to claim the precious three points.
Lesiba Nku had put City ahead in the 16th minute, while captain Jabu Maluleke doubled their lead with a superb free kick just after the hour mark.
But Chiefs had the last laugh as they claimed the much-needed victory.
Days into the PSL bio-bubble, Chiefs head coach Ernst Middendorp was already feeling the pressure due to his underperforming team. But yesterday’s result will be a relief, especially after dropping two points when they drew 1-1 against Wits on Wednesday.
Middendorp said afterwards that Chiefs were “ambitious, focused and committed in a way”.
“We wanted to win this game and we have done it,” the German mentor said in a post-match interview.
Chiefs have now extended their lead over Mamelodi Sundowns to six points. With six games left to play, Amakhosi have awoken from their slumber at the right time as the title race heats up.
On holding on to their grip at the top, Middendorp said: “I am not really interested in who wins and who loses, I can only look to prepare and work as a team. We want to win this championship, we said it in August last year and we are working for it as you have seen today.”
Rise and Shine have been the bogey opponents for Chiefs, with the Limpopo-based outfit winning two league games in their last five meetings.
The lockdown had masked Chiefs’ poor run of form, with their last win in the league being their derby victory over bitter rivals Orlando Pirates in February.
Chiefs had been on a downward spiral since then, but now, in the nick of time, have found their groove.
In their midweek clash against Wits, the team demonstrated a poor mentality after conceding late to draw 1-1. Despite the win yesterday, a concern for Chiefs fans will be playmaker Lebogang Manyama, who appears to have put on some extra kilos during the lockdown. The midfielder was the catalyst for Chiefs in the first half of the season, when he scored six goals and contributed nine assists.
With their livewire out of sorts, the team appeared flat and had little creativity going forward.
Khama Billiat is another star player whose poor form is hard to ignore. The Zimbabwean has only scored one league goal this season. Another concern will be the poor form of striker Lazarous Kambole, who missed a few scoring chances.
Sundowns fans were probably already excited about the prospect of their side equalling Chiefs on points, but now the gap has widened. The defending champions could reduce it to three points again when they face Cape Town City at Loftus Versfeld tomorrow afternoon.
The Brazilians are chasing a hat-trick of league titles and their 10th overall title in the PSL.
Polokwane City remain in the relegation zone. The battle at the bottom of the table is as intense as ever after AmaZulu played to a goalless draw against Baroka in Atteridgeville, Pretoria, in an early kick-off yesterday.
Stellenbosch FC eased their relegation worries when they defeated Golden Arrows to move up to number 10 on the log.
Once again, it looks like a Limpopo team will either be automatically relegated or go to the play-offs. Black Leopards, Polokwane City and Baroka are in the relegation mix, with AmaZulu also in the drop zone.
Leopards could go par with Polokwane this afternoon when they face Maritzburg United at FNB Stadium.
The battle at the bottom will go down to the wire and it appears the relegation chop will only by decided on September 5.
Meanwhile, in the GladAfrica Championship yesterday, automatic promotion chasers Ajax Cape Town remained at the top of the table despite their 1-0 loss to Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila, and second-placed Swallows FC beating Real Kings 1-0 in another crucial fixture.
Ajax hold a six-point advantage with four matches remaining.
Yesterday also saw Mbombela United easing their relegation woes with a 2-0 win over Richards Bay at Tuks Stadium, while JDR Stars lost ground in their pursuit for a promotional play-off berth with a goalless draw against the relegation threatened TS Sporting.
Steenberg United came from a goal down to hold the University of Pretoria 1-1 at Makhulong Stadium in a late kick-off last night.