JOHANNESBURG - Kaizer Chiefs scored late into the game to win an enthralling Soweto derby against Orlando Pirates 3-2 at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg on Saturday.
By the time Orlando Pirates woke up to smell the coffee against their sworn enemies, it was too late, and the absence of captain Happy Jele had dearly cost them.
Pirates’ makeshift defence cost the team two goals in the first half, despite their attack avenging those strikes, they conceded another penalty in the last 10 minutes of the game as Chiefs bagged their first Soweto Derby win in five seasons with a 3-2 full-time score-line at FNB Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The stakes coming to the derby are always pretty high, and thus the coaches of either side need to take their best army to battle.
However, that was nothing but a dream for Pirates’ young mentor Rhulani Mokwena, who was without skipper Jele after receiving a suspension midweek against Maritzburg United.
And that calamity cost the Buccaneers dearly from outset, unceremoniously from a man that was ought to lead the brigade to victory.
Barely a minute into the game, the arm-band proved to be heavy for Ntsikelelo Nyauza, who put his team on the backfoot by scoring an own goal after intercepting a back-flick from Innocent Maela before lobbying his header past an onrushing Wayne Sandilands to put Chiefs in the driving seat.
From thereon, the Sea Robbers were defiant of hitting the iceberg, with Fortune Makarige unleashing thunderbolt that came off the upright before Chiefs’ defence regrouped to clear the danger.
But that was about it for Pirates in the first half as Chiefs’ deadly trio of Khama Billiat, Samir Nurkovic and Leonardo Castro reminded the football fraternity of the sterner stuff they are made of.
Against the run of play, Castro teed up an onrushing Billiat, who lost his footing before blasting his efforts into the stands.
Nurkovic also tested the waters after benefitting from a telling delivery but the Serbian’s header didn’t have enough power as Sandilands easily palmed the ball for a corner.
It was Castro’s turn to take the baton. The Colombian international didn’t disappoint on his account, meeting George Maluleka corner-kick with timed header that sailed past a helpless Sandilands.
Pirates’ wheels looked to have come off, and they needed a perfect response that would bring them back into the game. And Vincent Pule was more than capable to do exactly that.
From an acute angle, the Pirates’ left-footer rattled the roof of the net with a delightful set-piece as he pulled one back for his team, ensuring the score-line was bit respectable heading to half-time.
With their derby record, of not losing to Chiefs in the last five seasons, under threat, Mokwena, had to live to his middle name, Mlungisi (the one who fixes), and bank on his half-time team-talk to bring his troops back to the game.
And it appeared as Gabadinho Mhango was the message barrier of that talk, causing all sorts of problems for Eric Mathoho and Co in defence.
After Pirates’ duo Thembinkosi Lorch and Pule had agonisingly came close to grabbing the equaliser before their efforts came off the woodwork, the Namibian international took the heavy burden to get his team back on the game on his shoulders.
Mhango cut inside the box before picking up a spot and curled his effort into the top corner.
But that was not withstanding as Daniel Cardoso’s ;late penalty gave Chiefs all three points, a feat that extended their lead to 10 points at the summit of the Premiership standings.