Chiefs draw with Celtic as Pirates beat AmaZulu
It might have been a 0-0 draw between Bloemfontein Celtic and Kaizer Chiefs, but this was as entertaining as any of the Absa Premiership matches in a cracking opening round from the Africa Cup of Nations break.
Spurred on by a big, vocal crowd, Celtic and Chiefs served up a display of quick-passing premier league football.
Amakhosi edged the first half and ended the game strong, so they might have felt they could have snuck a winner somewhere.
But a fired-up Celtic produced some fine football, and ran hard and spread the ball dangerously when in possession.
In the end, Chiefs would have settled for the draw and extending their unbeaten run from the start to 19 matches.
Amakhosi’s lead over secondplaced Mamelodi Sundowns, who have a game in hand, is now 13 points.
There was a certain intensity to this match. Celtic had last beaten Chiefs in September 2009, 12 league and cup matches ago.
And as Kaizer Chiefs head coach Stuart Baxter has said, every team in the league will be gunning for the runaway league leaders until May.
There were times Phunya Sele Sele gunned at the visiting side, especially in a period just after the break. But Chiefs ended the match searching for a winner.
Defensive midfielder Willard Katsande was back from injury, and Baxter opted for man in possession Brilliant Khuzwayo in goal, with Itumeleng Khune remaining on the bench.
New signing David Zulu was also on the bench.
On a warm evening, with the stadium swept by a dry, energysapping wind, the match was played at a brisk pace.
Chiefs had the best chance in the 10th minute when George Maluleka’s volley from the edge of the area dipped onto the crossbar.
A timely intercept from big centre-back Mulomowandau Mathoho denied Celtic dangerman Lerato Lamola space at the other end. Then Reneilwe Letsholonyane’s skidding shot went a foot wide.
The visiting side began the second half probing too, with a well-shaped Siphiwe Tshabalala free kick testing goalkeeper Patrick Tignyemb.
But keyed up playing into their bank of spectacular support on the southern side of the stadium, Celtic began to give Chiefs something of a scare.
In the 55th, Thapelo Morena showed Tsepo Masilela his heels and crossed. Siboniso Gaxa attempted to chest back to his goalkeeper allowing Dumisani Zuma to get in for a header over the bar, with Khuzwayo stranded.
Lamola’s snapshot from the right had Khuzwayo down for a reflex save.
Chiefs recovered, and started to get their supporters behind them. Mandla Masango shaped a shot that Tignyemb palmed for a corner. A Mathoho header from the resultant corner was cleared off the line by Thapelo Morena.
Zulu made his debut with six minutes left.
ý Once again against a Soweto giant at home, AmaZulu contrived to wrench defeat from the jaws of a draw as a Kermit Erasmus stoppage time goal consigned them to a 2-1 defeat.
Orlando Pirates were the better side on the night, but the hosts deserved a point.
Soft defensive moments were their downfall in a game of two distinct halves.
It was one of those first halves that promised so much in terms of spicy midfield action, but delivered little in front of goal.
With Robyn Johannes playing in an unfamiliar holding midfield role, it was expected of Orlando Pirates to run rings around AmaZulu, and that they did.
In last night’s other matches, Ajax and Polokwane City tied 1-1, SuperSport United and Free State Stars tied 2-2 and Platinum Stars and Black Aces tied 1-1.
-Marc Strydom and Khanyiso Tshwaku