JOHANNESBURG – Kaizer Chiefs registered their first win of the year with a 2-1 triumph over Polokwane City on Saturday night to wash down the cake they ate almost a week ago to celebrate the club’s 48th birthday on January 7.
Amakhosi came from behind to beat Polokwane, who came into this match on a high after toppling Mamelodi Sundowns.
The Soweto giants were made to work for their win by a plucky Rise and Shine. Chiefs’ bench, a department that was heavily criticised for lacking quality last season, came to the club’s rescue, with Siphelele Ntshangase and Dumisani Zuma combining for the winning goal.
This iconic venue, the biggest on the continent, sounded like a pub instead of the cathedral it is for the better part of this match, with a sprinkling of fans whose voices reverberated badly on the many empty orange chairs.
The pitch didn’t help. It was more sand than grass, as the concerts that this venue also hosts took a toll on it.
The match itself started at a pedestrian pace until Walter Musona livened things up.
The younger brother of former Chiefs’ striker Knowledge, with his educated right foot, hit a thunderbolt a few metres from the centreline – a position where only something spectacular would beat South Africa’s finest Itumeleng Khune.
Musona’s free kick was just that, bringing life to what had been a dull start.
Even Chiefs’ famous fan, the one who warms up in the stands fully-kitted in the Soweto giants’ colours – including socks and boots – warmed up after that goal, with Amakhosi needing a strong response.
Nervy at times, but lots of grit and no shortage of skill from @KaizerChiefs as they carve out a deserved 2-1 win against @polokwane_city to leave the Amakhosi faithful in the #ExtraStrong in good spirits. pic.twitter.com/gQgdITWnND
Rise and Shine couldn’t have asked for a better start in a match where they not only had to get the better of Chiefs, but also slay their own demons.
Polokwane were searching for their first win after getting a positive result from Sundowns.
Last season they went three matches without a win after holding the then-African champions to a morale-boosting draw in coach Bernard Molekwa’s first match.
This season they went on a five-match unbeaten run after defeating Sundowns at Loftus Versfeld.
The problem is that a positive outcome like the one against the Brazilians tends to go to their heads, and they don’t apply themselves properly against the teams that come after they’ve claimed the scalp of a giant.
The positive for Molekwa in this encounter was that Rise and Shine were also playing against a team that he didn’t have to do much to motivate his players for.
But perhaps he needed to tell them to be more alert after taking the lead. Ryan Moon levelled matters, 10 minutes after Musona’s wonder strike, with a header from Siphiwe Tshabalala’s corner.
Chiefs’ fans celebrated that goal almost as much as they welcomed Ntshangase, who made his debut by replacing Wiseman Meyiwa.
The confident playmaker promised to produced “champagne passes”, and his introduction suggested that Amakhosi strikers better prepare their flutes and get ready to be served.
By then, this venue sounded like a cathedral.
The killer pass that Ntshangase promised to deliver is what Amakhosi have lacked the most in Steve Komphela’s two-and-a-half-year trophyless tenure.
Ntshangase showed glimpses of his skill by cleverly creating space for Joseph Molangoane, who whipped a beautiful cross that was finished by another second-half substitute, Zuma.
The birthday cake and the champagne Ntshangase came with went down with these three points during a time when title contenders are raising their hands, after the first half of the season that was characterised by inconsistency.