JOHANNESBURG – Kaizer Chiefs failed to capitalise on Mamelodi Sundowns’ slip by playing to a goalless draw with a struggling Bloemfontein Celtic on Saturday night, which ensured the Tshwane side keep their five-point lead at the summit.
Chiefs started this match knowing that a win would cut the Brazilians’ lead to just three points, and also give Amakhosi breathing space between them and other members of the chasing pack in the Absa Premiership race.
The Soweto giants were in that position due to the Brazilians playing to a 1-1 draw with SuperSport United, and Bidvest Wits ending Cape Town City’s hoodoo over them with a 2-1 win.
Even with that knowledge, Chiefs weren’t aggressive enough against Phunya Sele Sele, who came into this tie without a win in their last five league matches.
Leonardo Castro worked his socks off upfront, covering more ground than any Amakhosi player as he also tracked back to help out defensively.
The Colombian’s performance proved his statement about his Sundowns exit wasn’t just a dig at his former employers, but a valid analysis of his progress at Chiefs.
The forward said he was losing his profile and confidence towards his last days at Sundowns as he was a shadow of the striker he was when he first arrived at Chloorkop, lighting up the scene with 15 goals in 35 matches in the 2015/16 season.
He scored a paltry three goals in 24 matches in his last campaign with Sundowns.
Castro went on to say that he is regaining that confidence and profile at Amakhosi.
The only blemish so far in his time in Naturena is that some of his teammates aren’t on his level of thinking, which results in late passes to him or failure to read his explosive bursts forward.
With Castro growing in confidence with each game, Chiefs need to be more aggressive to complement his game, which would also benefit Ryan Moon and his poacher’s instincts.
Aggression is the main ingredient that’s missing in their game to make them genuine title contenders and give Sundowns a run for their money in the final stretch.
Chiefs don’t lose much and they boast the best defensive unit in the league, but they also don’t score enough.
Amakhosi have the least number of goals among the teams in the top eight.
Chiefs’ first aggressive stance came just before the hour-mark through Wiseman Meyiwa’s thunderous grass-cutter that went straight to Patrick Tignyemb.
Bloemfontein Celtic and their fans singing and dancing after the match. pic.twitter.com/JiU3ULOshC
Meyiwa started in place of Willard Katsande, who wasn’t in the match-day squad after losing his mother earlier in the week.
Amakhosi didn’t miss the Zimbabwean hardman as the visitors hardly threatened them, with Itumeleng Khune on holiday in goal.
Celtic looked content to return to Bloemfontein with a point in their bid to remove themselves as quickly as they can from the relegation quagmire that could drag down any team from 10th position.
As the match wore on, Chiefs’ fans became more agitated. They threw their hands in disgust in the direction of the VIP section where the club’s management sat.
Chiefs finished the match stronger, attacking with more intent – something they should have done from the onset, as their defence has consistently gave them good cover.