Stars dent Chiefs’ title hopes

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iol spt may1 Mphela Gallo Images Katlego Mphela scored his frst goal in Kaizer Chiefs colours, but his old team, Sundowns are odds-on favourites to clinch the PSL title. Photo by Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images

It could well be that Katlego Mphela should have been patient after all! While he did wait five months to score his first goal in Amakhosi colours, the player they call “Killer” might regret the move from Mamelodi Sundowns as Pitso Mosimane intimated last week.

For on Tuesday, Mosimane and his Brazilians could be crowned Absa Premiership champions if they beat SuperSport United at Loftus Versfeld, and Mphela will be left to ponder what might have been.

As it was, he already looked to be as he walked gingerly towards the television interviews after the match, the fact his maiden strike came to very little clearly weighing heavily down on him.

And with good reason too, for Chiefs looked to have this match sealed when Mphela headed in the opener in somewhat controversial fashion. An earlier attempt had ended with Stars ’keeper Ayanda Mtshali sprawled in the box but Chiefs continued playing despite Kingston Nkhatha’s call for the goalie to be attended to. When the ball rebounded off the crossbar, Mphela was on hand to head in to the delight of the Amakhosi faithful who’d waited too long for the goal that always looked inevitable.

That Stars caught them cold against the run of play was pretty surprising as the visitors had looked so blunt in their counter-attacks for most of the match.

But substitute Luyolo Nomandela had injected some life into Ea Lla Koto’s forays forward and it was his low cross into the box that found another substitute Thabo Moloi to stun Chiefs and leave Sundowns needing just a win to dethrone Chiefs as Absa Premiership kings.

Stars, for their part, gave themselves some fighting chance to avoid going into the promotional play-offs with two National First Division (NFD) sides, this point taking them to two points of 14th-placed Polokwane City.

And the impact of the result was evident, some of the Chiefs players lying sprawled on the pitch at the final whistle and Stuart Baxter standing hands akimbo in the technical area, looking as though he’d just been mugged.

And perhaps he was, the Englishman now almost certain to miss out on a chance to continue a long-standing Premiership trend that has seen the championship being defended at least once since Ted Dumitru won it with Chiefs from the 2004/05 season.

As Mphela regrets leaving Sundowns, Chiefs are sure to look back at this match and regret not having won it. At their fortress where they’d hither to not conceded a goal – Amakhosi were by far the better side moreso in the first half.

Midway through the initial stanza, their short-passing machine ran with such precision that Stars hardly got a look in. But while they shared the ball as though they were in a practice session, Amakhosi failed to get the desired outcome of their build-ups.

Chiefs threatened to take the lead on no less than three occasions within five minutes.

A great passage of play on 26 minutes involving some neat little passes between George Lebese and Siphiwe Tshabalala saw the latter deliver a cross from which Bernard Parker forced a good save out of Mtshali with a point-blank header. Tshabalala then failed to make use of a delicately lobbed pass from Reneilwe Letsholonyane before turning provider for Kingston Nkhatha whose headed attempt beat Mtshali only to miss the target too.

At the stroke of half-time a cleverly-worked free-kick on the edge of the box by Tshabalala and Parker landed perfectly for Tefo Mashamaite but the defender hesitated when heading for goal looked easier.

It all proved costly in the end, Killer’s maiden goal notwithstanding.

Kaizer Chiefs (0) 1

Mphela 68

Free State Stars (0) 1

Moloi 82 - The Star


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