Ernst Middendorp enjoyed a winning start as Kaizer Chiefs secured a 1-0 victory against SuperSport United courtesy of George Maluleka’s lone strike, writes MARSHALL GOUTS.
The Soweto giants went into the clash on the back of two consecutive losses, having suffered defeats to Golden Arrows in the league, as well as succumbing 2-1 to Zimamoto of Zanzibar in their Caf Confederation Cup preliminary clash, which ultimately cost coach Giovanni Solinas his job.
Matsatsantsa also went into the game on the back of a two-game beating with their most recent defeat (2-1) coming at the hands of arch-rivals Mamelodi Sundowns in the Tshwane Derby.
Chiefs started the brighter of the two sides and came agonisingly close to breaking the deadlock through Khama Billiat’s well-struck free kick in the opening exchanges.
The Soweto giants continued to dominate, but proved wasteful with their finishing, characterised by Leonardo Castro’s sitter in the 12th minute after Billiat brilliantly beat the offside trap to lay the ball off for the Columbian.
Billiat again carved open the SuperSport defence in the 20th minute, this time putting Lebogabng Manyama through on goal, but the former Cape Town City man’s goal-bound effort was cleared away for a corner by Ronwen Williams.
SuperSport were handed a rare opportunity after good attacking interplay saw Aubrey Modiba cut the ball back for Fagrie Lakay in the area, however, the attacker’s goal-bound effort was blocked.
The visitors upped their tempo and should have taken the lead in the 28th minute when a swift attacking move saw the ball fall for Evans Russkie in the area. However, goalkeeper Virgil Vries did well to deny him with his feet.
Chiefs had the best opportunity of the game when an excellent through ball from George Maluleka saw Billiat go one-on-one with Williams, but the Zimbabwean international opted to shoot when a pass to Castro seemed a more viable option.
Both sides opted for changes in the second half with Thuso Phala replacing Lakay, while Kabelo Mahlasela came on for Ntshangase.
The tempo of the game slowed down a bit after the restart of the second half, but sprung to life again when Billiat went on a powerful run, his subsequent effort being tipped away by Williams.
Chiefs made another change as Bernard Parker was introduced for the out-of-sorts Castro, while James Keene came on for Evans Rusike.
Captain George Maluleka broke the deadlock for Chiefs in the 65th minute when his long-range effort evaded Williams.
Billiat became guilty of selfishness minutes later when a swift counter-attacking move saw Chiefs break, with the numbers on their side. However, Billiat saw his name in the headlines and opted to shoot when a pass seemed a better option.
In the end, it proved a hard-fought 1-0 victory for Chiefs, who could have added a lot more goals to their tally, but found goalkeeper Williams in excellent form.
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