Kaizer Chiefs cut Orlando Pirates’ lead at the head of the Absa Premiership to just two points with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Soweto rivals Moroka Swallows at the Loftus Stadium in Pretoria on Wednesday evening.
Amakhosi skipper Jimmy Tau was the unlikely hero, scoring 20 minutes from the end to secure a victory that sends his side to second place on the log and adds further intrigue to an already engrossing title race.
The big team news prior to the game was Swallows handing new signing MacBeth Sibaya his debut, while Chiefs replaced the suspended Knowledge Musona with Sthembiso Ngcobo. Goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune made his milestone 100th appearance for the Amakhosi.
There was little to report in terms of goal mouth action in the first half. Both teams looked to play an attacking game but there was simply not enough quality on show to produce a goal in the first 45 minutes.
The hosts dominated through the middle of the park, with wide men Siphiwe Tshabalala and Mthokozisi Yende inclined to play in a more narrow fashion and thus offering ready support to Reneilwe Letsholonyane and Tinashe Nengomasha.
Yet strikers Sthembiso Ngocob and Kaizer Motaung Jr were not given good service and the pace and invention of the absent Knowledge Musona was sorely missed.
Swallows, for their part, had good width through Koketso Mmotong and make-shift left wing Keegan Ritchie, but too often their crossing left much to be desired.
Even from set pieces – and the Birds had plenty of corner kicks in the first half – they rarely did anything other than hand Itumeleng Khune some straightforward catching practice
The second half saw a slight improvement, particularly from the away team, but they failed to capitalise on their chances and were punished by the Amakhosi.
Swallows should have opened the scoring in the 50th minute. Mmotong whipped in a good cross from the right, Bongouta Cisse’s attempt to get on the end of it was stymied by Dominic Isaacs, but the loose ball rolled kindly for Siyabonga Nomvethe. However, ‘Bhele’ thundered his close range effort off the crossbar.
Chiefs then had a good chance for Ngcobo on the hour mark, with the striker running onto a good diagonal ball from Tshabalala, but he was unable to direct his header on target with only Greg Etafia to beat.
On 68 minutes Khune was called upon to make his first save, palming away a stinging effort from Nomvethe after the speedy striker had cut inside a challenge from Isaacs.
Swallows seemed to be building a head of steam but in the 70th minute they were stunned by Jimmy Tau. Yende played in a dangerous low ball from the right of the area, Ramahlwe Mphahlele failed to clear the danger and Tau pounced from close range to force the ball home.
The Bird almost came up with a reply just four minutes later when Giorgi Nergadze powered a header on target from a corner kick, but Khune acrobatically tipped the ball over his crossbar.
They also threatened through a free kick from substitute Gareth Ncaca that left Khune flat-footed with sheer power but the ball flashed just over the angle of bar and post.
In another Absa Premiership match yesterday, BidVest Wits beat Santos 3-1 at the BidVest Stadium-Backpagepix