Johannesburg – Mandla Masango's late winner was enough as Kaizer Chiefs continued their dominance of the early season with a 1-0 win over Bloemfontein Celtic in an Absa Premiership encounter at FNB Stadium on Tuesday evening.
The Glamour Boys were made to fight it our for maximum points but got there in the end, courtesy of Masango's 80th minute finish.
The win sent Chiefs to the top of the league standings with nine points and a 100 percent record from their opening three fixtures.
The tricky Masango slotted home his fourth goal in five matches so far this season, continuing his meteoric rise to the top of the goal-scorers' list. The winger scored a brace in the opening round of the MTN8, before netting Chiefs' opener against Mpumalanga Black Aces in their 2-1 win last week.
Amakhosi's victory was a 12th successive encounter without defeat against Celtic, who last managed a win against Chiefs in September 2009.
A quiet opening quarter saw a solitary attempt on goal from Gabadinho Mhango, who forced Itumeleng Khune into action.
The Bafana Bafana first choice goalkeeper dealt with the rising effort and palmed over for a corner, providing a brief moment of excitement in an otherwise uneventful opening half-hour.
The pair seemed content to play the game in the middle of the park and failed to inspire much at either end.
When Chiefs eventually managed to penetrate the Celtic defence, courtesy of a superb ball through the middle, Kingston Nkhatha preferred to fall clumsily to the ground inside the area and pleaded for a penalty.
The performance was feeble at best and Nkhatha failed to persuade referee Thabo Nkosi of an infringement, prompting coach Stuart Baxter to launch a scathing attack from the sideline on his striker, who looked through on goal and little but the goalkeeper to beat.
Chiefs looked better after the break and paid regular visits into the opposing half.
George Lebese had undoubtedly the game's best chance on 54 minutes, rattling the crossbar from a fine curled free-kick well outside the area.
The tie opened up and soon Celtic came bursting down the left as former Amakhosi defender Keegan Ritchie surged ahead, but Lerato Lamola chose to go it alone and got a shot away, but was well blocked by the cover defence.
Action swung from end-to-end after the hour mark but neither were able to find the decisive pass in the final third as chances came and went.
But the hosts' dogged determination eventually paid off as Masango netted for the Soweto outfit, sending out a unified sigh of relief for the home supporters on a chilly evening in Nasrec.
George Maluleka sprayed the ball out wide the Lebese on the right, before the winger centred brilliantly for an on-coming Masango, who made no mistake, side-footing with authority past goalkeeper Patrick Tignyemb, who was stranded.
With little time to recover, Celtic failed to keep up with the leaders, allowing Chiefs to sit back and defend their lead for a nervy 13 minutes, but not before Eric Mathoho crashed a volley into the crossbar seconds after the goal, as Chiefs came close to doubling their lead. – Sapa