GOALS from Ashley Hartog and Kermit Erasmus handed SuperSport United a 2-1 win over Kaizer Chiefs at a rainy FNB Stadium on Saturday night which sees them re-establish themselves as strong contenders for the Absa Premiership title.
Gavin Hunt’s team is now just one point behind log leaders Orlando Pirates and know that if they win all three of their remaining matches they will be crowned champions for the fourth time in the space of five seasons.
As for Amakhosi, this defeat is their fourth in a row (an unwanted new club record) since they parted ways with Vladimir Vermezovic, and the caretaking trio of Ace Khuse, Doctor Khumalo and Arthur Zwane are now under immense pressure.
Chiefs made a couple of interesting changes to their line-up, fielding Zimbabwean midfielder Willard Katsande at right-back and handing Mthokozisi Yende a rare start in the engine room alongside Tinashe Nengomasha.
As for SuperSport, coach Gavin Hunt went with another variation of the attacking formation that has served them so well in recent games. The Pretoria side had no less than three strikers on the field in the shape of Kermit Erasmus, Ashley Hartog and Thabiso Nkoana.
The visitors started the game very strongly, forcing Chiefs onto the back foot, though they were unable to create any clear chances with which to test goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune. Amakhosi soon got their passing game going, but apart from one sharp save by Ronwen Williams from a quickly-taken free kick, they offered little in attack.
Mthokozisi Yende’s game was cut short when he was substituted ten minutes before the break due to injury. The no.10 was seemingly the victim of an earlier studs-up tackle by United’s Edwin Gyimah – the midfielder was shown a yellow card for the foul, but referee Gabriel Sekopo arguably should have produced a red.
On 39 minutes SuperSport deservedly broke the deadlock. A Kermit Erasmus free kick found Thabo September at the far post and the defender produced a fine header back across goal that hit the crossbar, before Ashley Hartog forced the ball home on the rebound to make it 1-0.
It took just 10 minutes of the second half for United to double their advantage. Erasmus let fly with a shot from long range that swerved viciously and left Khune rooted to his line, helpless to try and make a save.
At 2-0 up it seemed that SuperSport would cruise to an easy victory, but any thoughts of that were erased on the hour mark when Chiefs pulled one back. Substitute George Lebese provided a good cross from the left, Lucky Baloyi saw his goal-bound effort blocked by a defender, but Lehlohonolo Majoro was on hand to fire home the loose ball from close range.
Substitute Sthembiso Ngcobo almost levelled the game on 77 minutes, arriving late in the middle of the box to meet a Majoro cross from the right flank, but the striker was unlucky to see his effort cannon back off the underside of the crossbar.
Ngcobo came close again in the dying minutes, with a deflected effort that forced Williams into tipping the ball over the crossbar, and that was as close as Chiefs came to an equaliser.
Kaizer Chiefs (0) 1 (Majoro 60’)
SuperSport United (1) 2 (Hartog 39’, Erasmus 55’)
Chiefs: Khune; Katsamande, Zvasiya, Mashamaite, Jambo, Masango (Ngcobo 75’), Nengomasha, Yende (Baloyi 36’), Tshabalala, Nale (Lebese 56’), Majoro
SuperSport: Williams; September, Gould, Kekana, Langerman, Cale (Zuma 78’), Gyimah, Mdluli, Erasmus, Hartog (Gabonamong 56’), Nkoana (Khenyeza 65’)
Meanwhile Free State Stars moved to the fourth position on the log after they overcame Maritzburg United with a 4-1 victory in another league match played yesterday with Platinum Stars registering a 2-1 victory away to AmaZulu while Orlando Pirates were held to a 1-1 draw by Ajax Cape Town on Friday night.