Claasen scores twice as little Maritzburg upset league leaders Kaizer Chiefs
JOHANNESBURG – Kaizer Chiefs’ title aspirations were dealt a major blow after they were defeated 2-1 by Maritzburg United at the FNB Stadium on Saturday night.
This result ensured that the log leaders, Chiefs, stayed only seven points ahead of champions Mamelodi Sundowns, who have a game in hand and had early demolished Chippa United 3-0 to prove that they won’t give up their crown without a fight.
Furthermore, Saturday’s result was a bitter-pill to swallow for Amakhosi, who’ve now failed to beat Maritzburg in all three meeting this season, losing on Saturday, in the Telkom Knockout semi-finals, while playing a one-all draw in the first league match last year.
Chiefs were hellbent on putting the spell that the Team of Choice has had over them in the last two matches to bed - dominating play here tonight but two quick goals in the second half and a piece of brilliant goalkeeping from Richard Ofori saw their efforts proving to be in vain.
Having failed to find their deft scoring touch against the Team of Choice this season, the trio of Khama Billiat, Samir Nurkovic and Leonardo Castro appeared resolute to show their menacing side that had inspired Chiefs to a whopping 38 league goals this season.
Nervous times for @KaizerChiefs fans 😳— SuperSport 🏆 (@SuperSportTV) February 15, 2020
Daylon Claasen scored twice in the space of two minutes to put @MaritzburgUtd 2-0 up but Samir Nurkovic has hit back. It's 2-1 after 78 minutes.
Watch live: https://t.co/3wUsZ1pF9y.#AbsaPremiership pic.twitter.com/wPRfeLBxdX
Fan favourite, Billiat, whose silk first touches and run-ins were met with loud cheers here, should have announced his return to action from injury with the first goal of the encounter but his poor precision in front of goal left a lot to be desired.
From thereon, Nurkovic, who’s been Amkhosi’s top marksman with 10 goals this season, had a go at Ofori, whom with every ask proved as to why he’s Ghana’s No 1.
In the 25th minute, Chiefs’ dead ball specialist Lebogang Manyama launched his trademark in-swinging corner-kicks which connected with Samir whose header guided the ball into the top-corner only to force Ofori into a full-stretching save as he palmed the ball away from danger.
But with their attacking game-plan of unlocking defence using set-pieces proving to be in vain then, the Serbian opted to test Ofori through a close-range, after sailing past a cluster of Maritzburg’s defence, but again the 26-year-old goalkeeper saved his team from the blushes with a sliding save.
Chiefs continued to huff and puff in the second stanza, Billiat leading the attack by stretching the Maritzburg’s defence as that allowed breathing space for their forwards but there was just no way past the Maritzburg’s No 1.
Soon thereafter, Ofori’s efforts for the Team of Choice went on to bear the fruits. In what should have been the easiest of saves, Daniel Akpeyi clumsily palmed to Tebogo Tlolane who delivered a diagonal ball that was rattled into an empty net by Daylon Claasen.
And in a flash, the visitors were 2-0 up. Still shocked by that Claasen opener, Chiefs’ defence were caught napping as Thabiso Kutumela, unmarked, closely set-up the former, who taped-in with the easiest of headers.
But while Maritzburg thought they could smash and grab all three points with a clean sheet, they were given a nervy ending, Nurkovic’s header finally beating Ofori after benefitting from a Manyama corner.
Nonetheless, the Team of Choice did all the job in Gauteng, getting all the six points after also defeating Bidvest Wits midweek. For Chiefs, it was another lesson learned that the league race is far from over.