Lebogang Manyama and his Kaizer Chiefs team-mates celebrate his goal during their Nedbank Cup Last 32 match against Royal Eagles at FNB Stadium in Johannesburg on Saturday. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG – Kaizer Chiefs avoided slipping on a banana-peel in the form of struggling GladAfrica Championship side Royal Eagles to advance to the last 16 of the Nedbank Cup.

Chiefs have a chequered past in this tournament when it comes to playing against teams from the lower leagues. They have been stunned by amateurs and embarrassed by teams in the first division. Eagles had all the makings of a potential banana-peel, languishing at the bottom of the first division and with nothing to lose against a fallen giants that’s fighting to reclaims its rightful place at the summit of South African football.

Amakhosi were understandably cautions, but they were no match for Eagles who had nothing to show for their outing in Johannesburg – except for selfies in the iconic stadium that hosted the final of the first Fifa World Cup on African soil. Lebogang Manyama’s lob put Chiefs in the hat for the last 16 draw that will be conducted tomorrow.

After throwing a fit at being asked if he is tempted to start this match with Itumeleng Khune, coach Ernst Middendorp did just that despite having praised Daniel Akpeyi on the brilliant season he has had. Chiefs’ supporters have a love-hate relationship with the Nigerian goalkeeper despite his heroic showings this season in the club’s storming run in the league race. But once Khune regained full fitness, a section of the club’s fans have been calling for Bafana Bafana’s most-capped goalkeeper to return to the starting XI. Middendorp gave him a run against Eagles, resting Akpeyi who is currently the club’s undisputed No. 1.

The supporters loved that. They passionately cheered Khune making a save from a tame effort from the KwaZulu-Natal side. That was his only contribution last night. Khune wasn’t needed much in what was a dull encounter, looking more like a mid-table league clash than a fight for the most prestigious knockout competition in the country.

Chiefs were calm in an encounter where it would have been easy to be emotional after they were embarrassed in the final of this competition last year by GladAfrica Championship team TS Galaxy. Middendorp was peeved at being reminded of that day, saying that he looks at the positive and the future.

Eagles frustrated Chiefs by parking the bus. The hosts had to be inventive in their attack to break them down, but they were predictable and not forceful enough. Middendorp made a double switch before the start of the second half, bringing in Khama Billiat and Bernard Parker in place of Kearyn Baccus and Leonardo Castro.

Billiat’s introduction added an extra dimension to Chiefs’ attack. The talented Zimbabwean bamboozled the rigid Eagles’ defence. Billiat had an assist in Manyama’s goal, but the Tembisa born striker still had a lot of work to do. Manyama turned in the box with plenty of grey shirts around him. Those wearing those grey shirts weren’t fast enough to react to Manyama’s turn which was followed by a lob over goalkeeper Edward Maova.

The goal was scrappy and the defending lethargic – a perfect reflection of this match on a cold Johannesburg night.

IOL Sport