DURBAN – There is still hope for Kaizer Chiefs to break their trophy drought after they negotiated a 2-1 win over Stellenbosch FC at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban on Saturday night to reach the quarter-finals of the Nedbank Cup.
A goal in each half from Erick Mathoho and Leonardo Castro saw Chiefs join Ubuntu Cape Town, Free State Stars and Baroka in the next round of the country’s national knockout competition.
From their 3-1 Soweto Derby defeat to Orlando Pirates, Chiefs featured three changes.
In came defensive pair Erick Mathoho and Teenage Hadebe for Siyabonga Ngezana and Ramahlwe Mphahlele, while in attack, Bernard Parker took the place of Ryan Moon, who watched the duel from the bench.
Mathoho almost gifted the First Division side the lead when midway through the half he scuffed a clearance to a Stellenbosch player, but fortunately for him, the shot hit a defender and the danger was averted.
Mathoho made amends for that shaky booted clearance with a more clinical header at the opposite end that put Chiefs in front.
The man nicknamed Tower proved his aerial strength when he powered in a corner kick by Parker in the 28th minute.
The set piece came courtesy of Hadebe having a header cleared for a corner off Siphiwe Tshabalala’s free kick.
That and a half-chance for Leonardo Castro were among the few chances for the Chiefs faithful, who filled less than half the capacity of their alternative Durban home venue.
Near to the end of the first half, Parker was put through with a pass like a thread through a needle from Tshabalala and connected sweetly, but Washington Arubi finger-tipped the swerving strike for a corner.
Stellenbosch had one decent sight of goal, when Iqraam Rayners skewed a shot high and wide with Itumeleng Khune at his mercy.
Apart from that, the Amakhosi kept a tight leash on the visitor’s front-line, so much so that the Cape side’s coach Steve Barker sacrificed a defender, Anzio Georgia, for forward Carl Lark before the break.
This being the last piece of knockout silverware on offer for Chiefs to break their trophy drought since Steve Komphela took the coaching position three years ago, they went about their task in business-like fashion.
In keeping with their performance under Komphela’s guidance, Chiefs were perseverance personified, but lacked the dominance and cutting edge of previous seasons.
Against a side that slipped from early promotion contenders to mid-table in the NFD, Chiefs’ superiority eventually told.
Without raising much of a sweat, they eased to a 2-0 lead courtesy of a drive from Leonardo Castro, off Parker’s supply.
It might have been 3-0 had winger Joseph Molangoane’s effort not hit the post with Arubi beaten.
Chiefs were made to endure a nervous finish when defender Alan Robertson flicked a header in off a corner kick in the 77th minute.
It gave the NFD outfit hope of getting back into the tie, but time wasn’t on their side.