Amakhosi eager to extend their lead
On Saturday, Amakhosi revived their championship dreams that were starting to look like a nightmare after one win, one draw and one loss in three successive league outings, defeating arch nemesis and title hopefuls Orlando Pirates 1-0 to extend the gap at the top to seven points.
That win ensured that Chiefs have at least won three out of five matches they played against the top four in the league. They completed a double over third-placed Pirates, while having already defeated second-placed Mamelodi Sundowns in the first round.
Chiefs’ biggest blemishes have been the loss to and draw with fourth-placed SuperSport United.
While Amakhosi are going about their business of reigning supreme over fellow title contenders with aplomb - apart from having to face Bidvest Wits in back-to-back clashes and Sundowns in the second round - they’ll be banking on the chasing pack to cancel each other out in their own remaining fixtures.
Chiefs’ invaluable wins from this year and the first half of the season have seen them amass 48 points from 21 matches as they lead defending champions Sundowns, who have a game in hand, by seven points.
However, with the Brazilians busy with continental duty this weekend - they hope to overturn a 2-0 defeat against Al Ahly in the quarter-finals of the CAF Champions League - Chiefs will get a chance to extend their advantage to 10 points when they host AmaZulu at FNB Stadium on Saturday night.
Usuthu are bottom of the Premiership standings with 20 points. That underwhelming return has seen coach Josef Vukusic being put on “special leave”, with assistant coach Ayanda Dlamini and veteran goalkeeper Moneeb Josephs expected to sit in the dugout in Soweto.
The inexperienced coaching duo will have a mountain to climb in getting Usuthu out of the doldrums of relegation after being a shadow of themselves this season, scoring only 11 goals while conceding 27.
That is not a sign of a team’s willingness to stay afloat.
In fact, since returning to top-flight football after buying the status of Thanda Royal Zulu three seasons ago, AmaZulu have done little to show that they belong in the elite league.
Last season, after having six points docked by Fifa for illegally terminating the contract of Namibian Phinheas Nambandi, AmaZulu finished 11th on the Premiership standings with 31 points, just four clear of the automatic relegation spot.
Chiefs, on the other hand, are the best team in the league at the moment. They’ve scored the most and conceded the least number of goals. Known for their superiority with set-pieces, Lebogang Manyama’s solitary strike against Pirates proved they can grind out results with any given chance.
Chiefs’ solid defence is also based around the prowess of goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi.
The Nigerian No 1 pulled off some telling saves during the Soweto Derby last weekend, silencing his detractors who slammed him for his blunder during Chiefs’ 2-1 loss to Maritzburg United in the league three weeks ago.@mihlalibaleka