Kaizer Chiefs' George Maluleka is tackled by Sipho Mbule of Supersport United during their Absa Premiership meeting at Mbombela Stadium in Mbombela on Saturday. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

MBOMBELA – Kaizer Chiefs’ 50th anniversary celebrations started on a sour note with SuperSport United handing them only their second defeat in the Absa Premiership yesterday at Mbombela Stadium.

Amakhosi will celebrate their milestone on Tuesday. The following day they will grant their supporters free entrance at FNB Stadium for their clash with Highlands Park. But with their lead at the summit having been cut yesterday, the cake and champagne will be eaten moderately as the runaway train was stalled by the team that got a point from them at FNB Stadium in the first half of the season.

These two teams started 2020 in a bang by producing an entertaining spectacle in front of over 25 000 supporters. A large portion of those supporters left the stadium dejected after SuperSport and their handful of supporters walked away with maximum points and bragging rights of derailing the Chiefs’ train that was picking up steam.

The year that Amakhosi faithfuls would like to be a year of plenty started with a familiar foe, Bradley Grobler, tormenting the league’s early pacesetters. The SuperSport striker pounced early to give the hosts the lead in a move that was started by Kudakwashe Mahachi. The Zimbabwean laid the ball to Teboho Mokoena who whipped in an inviting cross that was finished by Grobler in the far post.

Grobler, who has a knack for scoring against Soweto giants, took his tally to double figures with his 10th goal in all competitions.

Just like they have been throughout this season, Chiefs were spurred on by the setback and fought hard to bounce back from conceding early. Amakhosi put SuperSport under the cosh, hitting the post three times. The lethal Samir Nurkovic was a handful for Matsantsantsa a Pitori’s defence, but the Serbian arrived without his scoring boots. He fluffed easy chances but worked tirelessly to harass Clayton Daniels and Grant Kekana.

That harassment led to Daniels conceding a penalty for handling the ball with Nurkovic looming large behind him. Chiefs’ penalty specialist Daniel Cardoso stepped up and equalised. Matsatsantsa, who had taken their foot off the pedal, started pressing Amakhosi in search of another lead.

Both teams gave as good as they got. Chiefs started the match with two forwards, Nurkovic and Leonardo Castro. The hosts also started with two forwards in Grobler and Evans Rusike. They made it three at the start of the second half by introducing Thamsanqa Gabuza.

“Gandaganda” bulldozed SuperSport to another lead after pouncing on a cross from Mahachi.  

This approach was a strong message that both teams wanted maximum points in the opening round of 2020. It was a pound-for-pound battle between two heavyweights. The motivation though was different. Chiefs want to end a four-season barren run by lifting the Absa Premiership in May while SuperSport want to shake-off the tag of cup specialists by also doing well in the league – a trophy they haven’t won in a decade.

Chiefs cut dejected figures at fulltime. Ernst Middendorp, with disappointment written on his face, congratulated Kaitano Tembo on a gallant fight that was put by the MTN8 champions. This month will test Chiefs’ championship credentials with all 15 teams gunning for them.

IOL Sport