Orlando Pirates got some help from the enemy on Wednesday night, as the Amakhosi made a severe dent in Mamelodi Sundowns’ title aspirations.
Defeat for a strangely muted Brazilians side means that Pirates retain a three-point lead at the top of the table, and know that victory in their final two league games, against Bloemfontein Celtic and Golden Arrows, will be enough to hand them the title.
The Amakhosi are nine points off Pirates, and will need an absurd miracle to take home the championship, but this at least gave their fans something to cheer, even if some may have been slightly reluctant at lending a hand to the Buccaneers.
Chiefs’ new coaching team of Ace Khuse and Doctor Khumalo have come in for plenty of stick of late, but this was a much improved display, Chiefs thoroughly deserving their victory.
Sundowns’ defence was extraordinarily shaky all night, and Sthembiso Ngcobo capitalised on a howler to give Chiefs the lead in the second half, before Siphiwe Tshabalala finished the job.
Chiefs made five changes to the side that had slumped to SuperSport United, Lehlohonolo Majoro surprisingly dropped to the bench despite scoring against SuperSport on the weekend.
For Sundowns, Surprise Moriri came in for Esrom Nyandoro, while Musa Nyatama was preferred to Elias Pelembe, and Teko Modise returned from injury on the bench.
Chiefs, for all their recent woes, started the game brightly, Ngcobo comfortably beating Siyanda Xulu for pace, cutting into the area, but shooting against Wayne Sandilands from a tight angle.
Sundowns knocked the ball around in their usual fashion, without exactly looking menacing, though Lebohang Mokoena’s excellent cross just needed a better connection from Themba Zwane.
Sundowns were looking extraordinarily porous at the back, perhaps without the cover provided by Nyandoro. Josta Dladla ran through a gaping hole in the middle of the back four, and Sandilands did well to rush off his line and clear.
The Chiefs fans began to get agitated as Ngcobo failed to find Tshabalala with a through ball, but there was less to worry about at the back, save a shoddy back pass from Dladla, that almost put Itumeleng Khune in trouble.
Ngcobo then almost took advantage of some more ponderous Sundowns defending, racing past a statuesque Clayton Daniels, and then being flattened by Sandilands, Daniel Bennett ruling that the foul had taken place just outside the area.
Sundowns, meanwhile, had no penetration, restricted to a couple of tame long- range shots from Walter Maponyane and Hlompo Kekana.
And it was Chiefs who started the second half far brighter too, Dladla’s cross only just cleared off the head of Ngcobo.
Tshabalala then blazed well over, but Chiefs did have the lead soon after, thanks to Ngcobo’s persistence and some seriously poor Sundowns defending.
Tshabalala’s through ball then set Ngcobo on the run again, but Sandilands was a clear favourite to get there, only to swipe a complete air kick. Xulu still ought to have cleared, but allowed Ngcobo to rob him, and the Chiefs striker did well to guide the ball into an empty net.
Sundowns were now forced into desperate attacks, but were no more effective than before, Chiefs creating a series of openings on the break.
And after a flurry of wasted chances, Tshabalala finally killed the game, to give Chiefs some much needed reason to celebrate.
For Sundowns, this was a night to forget. – The Star