Cape Town — Kaizer Chiefs made a triumphant return to the DStv Premiership with a 2-0 win over Sekhukhune United at the FNB Stadium on Sunday evening, after leading 1-0 at the break.
The outcome allowed Chiefs to leapfrog Soweto rivals Orlando Pirates into second place on the standings, behind pacesetters Mamelodi Sundowns who are 12 points clear.
Sekhukhune has now suffered back-to-back defeats, and after a lofty second place a few days ago, they have plummeted to sixth place.
Chiefs' vastly untried combination started out with an attacking 4-3-3 formation and showed no signs of inactivity in the opening stages. The line-up was stripped of kingpins Keagan Dolly and Khama Billiat, who with coach Stuart Baxter, were among those who were laid low by a wave of Covid-19 infections at the club.
To make matters worse, Cole Alexander and Dumisani Zuma are under suspension. The run-on XI showed six changes from the team that started against Swallows in their previous outing 15 days ago.
Chiefs right-back Reeve Frosler initiated the first scoring opportunity when he stalked into the attack and reeled in a goalmouth cross which found the unmarked striker Leonardo Castro. The latter tried an ambitious shot and blasted his volley over the crossbar in the 10th minute.
Nkosingiphile Ngcobo, who enjoyed a rare start, was part of the three-man strike force with Castro and Happy Mashiane. He caught the eye with a speculative long-range effort in the 5th minute, and his curling shot missed the target by a whisker.
He tried a similar shot in the 25th minute, with an effort from in front of the D, outside the penalty area. His low drive carried past a maze of legs and caught unsighted Sekhukhune goalkeeper Toaster Nsabata by surprise and carried into the corner of the nets (1-0).
Five minutes earlier, Sekhukhune enjoyed their best first-half scoring chance. However, they were denied by Chiefs' Nigerian goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi who tipped Thabo Rakhale's parting shot way for a corner. Midfielder Tshediso Patjie was at the heart of a penetrative Sekhukhune sortie which saw him round the Chiefs defence out wide on the right before he laid on an inviting cross.
Sekhukhune changed tack at the start of the second half and instead of waiting for counter-attacking opportunities, they tried to take the fight to Chiefs. Once their initial efforts came to nought Chiefs regained the upper hand and several scoring chances surfaced for Cardoso, Njabulo Blom and Nkosingiphile Ngcobo, but none were converted.
Around the hour mark, both teams made changes, but the fresh legs only made a difference for Chiefs after substitute Phathutshedzo Nange punished the opposition’s defensive blunder four minutes from the end.
Chiefs next play Royal AM in Chatsworth in a week’s time, and Sekhukhune will host SuperSport United on Saturday.