CAPE TOWN – Football in South Africa doesn’t always get the credit it deserves. It is often weighed down by negative perceptions. But there is no doubt that, when it works, when the occasion demands it, there is quality and entertainment value in the PSL.
Tuesday night’s absorbing, highly enjoyable clash in which Cape Town City defeated Kaizer Chiefs 3-2 at the Cape Town Stadium being a particular case in point.
It may have lacked with regard to technique at times, but it had everything else – tension, drama, gripping, end-to-end action, individual skill, hostile challenges, tough tackles, goalmouth action, scoring opportunities galore and, above all, some splendid, sublime goals.
In short, it was compulsive watching.
As it stands, City continue to top the standings with 49 points, followed by Mamelodi Sundowns who defeated Ajax Cape Town 2-0 at Loftus, on 47 points, Wits 45, Chiefs 45 and SuperSport United 40 points.
Both teams were forced into a late change due to the loss of a key player. For City, influential right-back Thamsanqa Mkhize was injured at training and had to be replaced by Vincent Kobola.
For Chiefs, regular goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune was struggling with a hip problem and it forced the Soweto club to hand 21-year-old rookie Bruce Bvuma a PSL debut.
The importance of the occasion, though, was reflected in a nervous opening three minutes. Both teams gave the ball away freely and it was if the players’ brains and feet were, temporarily, on pause. Such was the anxiety of this vital fixture. It led to a scratchy, scrappy opening – but, fortunately, it didn’t last all that long.
It required a superb tackle and deft turn from City’s Thato Mokeke to create an opening for a shot from Roland Putsche in the fifth minute that, finally, sparked things. Putsche’s attempt sailed wide, but it was the wake-up call both teams needed – and the game sprang to life as the entertaining action then proceeded to swing from end to end.
Siphiwe Tshabalala had a long range effort saved by City keeper Shu-Aib Walters, while at the other end, Aubrey Ngoma had a shot blocked inside the penalty area. It was, however, the very same Ngoma who set the stadium ablaze with a really special goal soon after. The City winger, who has been in sensational form all season, slalomed his way through a number of opposition defenders and buried the ball into the net. It was a goal worthy of the atmosphere and the occasion.
But, such was the energy and purpose on both sides that, four minutes later, it was all-square at 1-1. And it was the Amakhosi talisman Tshabalala who was again the go-to man as he pulled a superb, intuitive chip from his box of magic tricks. The unexpected nature of his improvisation caught out Walters, who was off his goal-line and the ball looped over the keeper’s out-stretched hand and into the net.
But that wasn’t all – the night of exceptional goals wasn’t over yet. And who else but Lebogang Manyama to produce it?
The City captain has been the best player on show in the PSL this season – and he gave everybody a timely reminder of what he has been delivering week after week. Receiving the ball on the edge of the right side of the Chiefs penalty area, and the box filled with defenders, Manyama simply nutmegged George Maluleka and sliced the ball into the net from a tight, acute angle.
Chiefs were, by and large, in the ascendancy in the second half, but City were always threatening on the break. For the Cape side there were chances for Manyama and Lehlohonolo Majoro, while Amakhosi’s pressure resulted in opportunities for Venezualan substitute Gustavo Paez, Joseph Molangoane and George Maluleka.
But, with Chiefs continuing to ratchet up the heat on City, something had to give and it was Paez who fashioned the opening when he rounded Walters and crossed for Molangoane to equalise at 2-2.
For a while City had to hang on for dear life in the face some relentless attacking play from the Soweto side, but hang on they did – and they then finished the stronger, with substitute Judas Moseamedi netting a late winner during the final minute of injury time.
But this City side, wow, what character! The fairy tale continues – and the PSL title is still in sight.