JOHANNESBURG – The party will go all night in Soweto! A day after celebrating their 50th birthday, Kaizer Chiefs bagged their 12th win in 16 matches as the prospect of winning the Absa Premiership title remains very much intact.
On Wednesday night, the Soweto giants defeated Highlands Park by 3-0 at a packed FNB Stadium, extending their lead at the summit of the log standings to six points.
It was a match that had all the right ingredients to commemorate the half-century of the most successful club in the South African football, but the half-time event taking the crop of the three goals that came in either half.
Flanked by legends, players, staff and Gauteng Premier, David Makhura, Chiefs’ founder and owner Kaizer “Chincha Guluva” brought this iconic stadium to a standstill during half-time when he came to officially cut the triangular “50th birthday cake”.
That was added joy for the somewhat 40 000 faithfuls that braved chilli-night and graced occasion something to cheer on about.
Ernst Middendorp’s men dazzled their new commemorative black and gold-striped jersey, while they made a grand entrance as the centre-placed balloons sparkled away into the dark sky that was lit up by the fire-works that shone at the mouth of the tunnel.
And all that was left to do from the home-side was to rise up to the occasion, shower the club with the perfect birthday.
And a quick goal from Mathoho in the first half proved to be a step in the right. The towering defender rose high in the box as he connected with a Lebohang Manyama corner-kick but his daring header rattled against the upright but, with enough breathing space, luck and precision, his rebound overhead-kick whisked into bottom corner.
That was the trick of an old dogs considering that most of their goals this season have come from set-pieces, but what probably must have made the third-time lucky charm was the fact that Manyama had got to the idea that his usual connector Samir Nurkic, was not available due to suspension and replaced by Lazarous Kambole.
Not that the Zambian international had an effect either, as he was substituted quickly into the first half after a head-on collision with Sello Motsepe.
But that wasn’t a train smash for the Amakhosi as they supporters welcomed the introduction of the super-sub Dumisani Zuma, who instead operated on the flanks with Leonardo Castro operating as a lone striker.
The latter was presented with a chance to send his side on a break after he had intercepted a hospital pass by Hassan Banda, but the Colombian international failed to beat Marlon Heugh on a one-on-one duel.
But just like the old mantra goes “when one door closes, another opens”, and such was the case when Castro grabbed the scruff of the neck in the second half, almost nullifying the absence of top-goal-scorer Nurkovic.
In the 57th minute, Kearyn Baccus created some inch of mesmeric footwork down the flank before racing his way into the box to tee up an unmarked Catstro, who easily tapped-in past Heugh.
With only one out three Manyama set-pieces having produced the magic, it was Maluleka’s turn to test the waters – from a corner-kick.
The Tembisa-born footballer, who also celebrated his 31st birthday yesterday, got it spot-on at first attempt, sending a telling delivery that connected with the head of Castro, who slotted into an empty net.