Johannesburg - This was not part of the script. That Amazulu and Kaizer Chiefs have hit troubled waters in the teething stages of the Dstv Premiership campaign wasn’t what the management and discerning supporters of the two clubs had anticipated.
Granted, the two teams had contrasting outings last campaign - Amazulu incredibly finished as runners-up, while Chiefs sneaked into the top eight on the last day of the season, despite reaching the final of the CAF Champions League.
Both teams were expected to improve tremendously. Amazulu were expected to build on last season’s outing, while equally laying a marker in continental football. But they’ve endured a roller-coaster start to the season.
They reached the last round of the Champions League qualifiers after a 3-1 win over Malawi’s Big Bullets in the return leg of the first round to win the tie 3-2. Usuthu recently won their first game, domestically, after a winless streak.
Coach Benni Mccarthy has bemoaned the long adaptation of players – such as Keagan Buchanan who hadn’t played for the last eight months since leaving Maritzburg United – while injuries to some of their strikers has made life difficult.
But it appears that with support from his bosses, Mccarthy is turning the corner their recent 1-0 victory over Baroka FC was inspired by Bonginkosi Ntuli.
Chiefs’ start also hasn’t gone according to the script. The introduction of new playing personnel – including SA internationals Keagan Dolly and Njabulo Ngcobo – and coach Stuart Baxter, are yet to yield the needed results
Chiefs have won one league game out of five, and drawn and lost two. Of the losses, the most embarrassing was the 4-1 thrashing by new kids on the block, Royal AM, in their own backyard, the FNB Stadium.
The recent goalless draw at minnows Marumo Gallants has mounted the pressure on Baxter who was brought back to the club to bring back the glory days after a six-year trophy drought dating back to the end of his first reign.
Chiefs have had lingering problems defensively and up front. They conceded seven goals, and scored three in the league. This is despite the fact that they’ve rotated three of their four goalkeepers since the start.
Samir Nurkovic went under the knife recently, and joined fellow strikers Leonardo Castro and Dumisani Zuma in the medical room. That's why Dolly and Khama Billiat will be key against Usuthu.
Next Kaizer Chiefs Match!— Kaizer Chiefs (@KaizerChiefs) September 29, 2021
⚽️AmaZulu vs. Kaizer Chiefs
🗓️Saturday 02 October 2021
🏟Jonsson Kings Park Stadium
📺SuperSport PSL 202
📢No supporters are allowed inside or just outside the stadium #Amakhosi4Life pic.twitter.com/vu3A5suBTO
While Usuthu and Amakhosi will be eager to find their scoring touch at the Moses Mabhida Stadium this afternoon, Cape Town City will welcome Orlando Pirates at the DHL Stadium in the second thriller of the day.
The Citizens thrashed Swallows FC 4-0 away from home on Wednesday night to reach the final of the MTN8.
City’s engine room has made them tick, especially going forward.
The return of Thabo Nodada from an injury has made the team more fluid going forward. He contributed with two assists against Swallows despite coming on as a second half substitute. He will link up with Mduduzi Mdantsane.
Meanwhile, for Swallows FC it appears the tough times are far from ending.
They’ll meet champions Mamelodi Sundowns at their slaughterhouse, the Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Hatfield, tomorrow afternoon.
Sundowns have won their last four matches, including beating Pirates and Chiefs. In their last win on Tuesday night they defeated Golden Arrows 3-0 (4-1 on aggregate) to reach the MTN8 final.
Despite fielding a makeshift team against Arrows, they didn’t need to break a sweat. Credit should go to the razor-sharp Peter Shalulile who’s scoring goals for fun – netting four in as many matches.