Chiefs make big title statement


JOHANNESBURG – This was a big statement by Kaizer Chiefs.

Given their record against the Absa Premiership’s top sides ever since Steve Komphela took charge of Amakhosi, Mamelodi Sundowns were clear favourites.

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Bernard Parker celebrates with his Kaizer Chiefs teammates after scoring against Mamelodi Sundowns. Photo: Samuel Shivambu, BackpagePixKhama Billiat opened the scoring at FNB Stadium with a classy finish that took a deflection past Itumeleng Khune. Photo: Samuel Shivambu, BackpagePixHlompho Kekana and Willard Katsande battle for possession at FNB Stadium on Saturday. Photo: Samuel Shivambu, BackpagePixKaizer Chiefs captain Itumeleng Khune screams in delight following Bernard Parker’s equaliser. Photo: Samuel Shivambu, BackpagePix

Chiefs had hardly delivered against fellow title rivals and were slightly humiliated when these two teams last met in November last year.

The build-up to that encounter was a huge talking point, with Downs coach Pitso Mosimane claiming that his Chiefs counterpart Steve Komphela was ultra-defensive with his experimental 3-4-3 formation at the time.

Komphela was even more peeved after the match and probably held a grudge since.

This 2-1 win over Masandawana was a massive personal milestone, although the Amakhosi coach would never admit it.

Not only did he finally get one over Mosimane, but Chiefs’ pressing game proved too much for Downs and ensured that they dispelled concerns that they aren’t genuine title contenders until they beat a championship rival.

Question marks were raised in their opening game of the 2016-17 season when Chiefs narrowly lost to Bidvest Wits, who went top of the log with a victory over Platinum Stars hours before kickoff here at FNB Stadium.

Results against SuperSport United and Cape Town City were negative, to say the least.

But in front of 60 000-odd fans on Saturday night, Amakhosi backed up their title aspirations with a convincing showing.

What is even more impressive is that they had to come from behind to do it, and faced a determined Downs outfit desperate to get back to winning ways and revive their own hopes to retain their title.

Khama Billiat broke the deadlock in the 26th minute with an attempt that needed a little help to beat Chiefs goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune.

Although credit must go to the Downs striker for a sublime first touch that completely eliminated Lorenzo Gordinho, it was the defender’s monstrous deflection that sent Khune the wrong way and handed the visitors the lead.

Chiefs, who were not yet playing their pressing game, picked up a gear and responded in quick time through Bernard Parker, who struck a sweet right-foot shot to squeeze it in past goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene. Game on.

Sundowns were then unfortunate to concede from an own goal by defender Soumahoro Bangaly through a back pass gone wrong.

But it was again thanks to Amakhosi’s pressing style that forced the Ivorian to try and play the ball back to his goalkeeper, who was a bit too slow to catch up.

That goal suggests Chiefs needed some assistance wrapping up the game. Quite the contrary, as Amakhosi had the better chances and perhaps deserved to move up to second on the log table, while Downs, with games in hand, are beginning to let the title slip.

Still plenty of games, though.

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