PIETERMARITZBURG – Kaizer Chiefs won their second Absa Premiership match and inflicted a first league defeat on hosts Maritzburg United with a double from Gustavo Paez at the Harry Gwala Stadium on Wednesday night.
A goal in each half earned Chiefs the 2-0 victory, while goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune – who received a third consecutive Man of the Match award – saved a late penalty from Evans Rusike to keep a clean sheet.
There was an early welcome back present for several ex-Maritzburg employees, thanks to neat link play between Paez and Siphiwe Tshabalala.
Venezuelan forward Paez tested Maritzburg’s giant Ghanaian goalkeeper Richard Ofori with a sniper’s strike from range in the fifth minute to open the rivalry.
Ten minutes later, the South American did the business from close range after starting a move with Tshabalala and then sneaking in to finish off after Ofori parried Bhongolethu Jayiya’s shot.
The latter was one of a few former Maritzburg players in the Chiefs ranks, besides coach Steve Komphela.
The other was Philani Zulu, featuring at left back for the Amakhosi in his first return to Maritzburg after he was frozen out early last season by the Team of Choice for not agreeing to renew his deal.
Chiefs were fair value for their lead, and might have had another too had Ofori not interrupted Tshabalala’s connection with a cross from Paez.
However, for a side that harbours intentions of challenging for honours, Chiefs were too open at the back, and with better finishing, Maritzburg might have had two goals themselves.
Cameroonian playmaker Yazid Atouba, returning from suspension, had Chiefs captain Khune parrying a deflected free-kick volleyball style before the opener.
Deolin Mekoa brought out a diving parry from the goalie late in the half and, in between a free-kick from Evans Rusike and an attempt by Lebohang Maboe, kept Chiefs working for their lead.
This was the same Chiefs line-up as the one which drew their last outing, 1-1 at home against 10-man Bidvest Wits.
The performance was similar too, as Chiefs allowed Maritzburg plenty of possession and pretty much played on the counter.
The home side were hungry to end a four-game winless run in league and cup action, and revelled in the freedom to attack.
It was thrill-a-minute stuff, which the crowd of close to 10 000 enjoyed as Evans Rusike, Andrea Fileccia and Atouba pushed for goals.
The gamble by Chiefs paid off. Almost like how they scored in the first half they increased their lead with another early goal in the second period.
This time Jayiya was again involved, winning a corner kick after Ofori tipped his curler out. Off the set-piece, Paez got his second of the tie, bundling in from near for his third strike of the campaign.
Almost immediately, Komphela withdrew teenage holding midfielder Wiseman Meyiwa and introduced Erick Mathoho into the backline for a three-man central defence, with Lorenzo Gordinho and Daniel Cardoso to protect their lead over the final 30 minutes.
Mathoho conceded the penalty, but luckily for him, his captain dived low to his right to parry Evans’ strike for a corner.
Next, the Amakhosi will continue on the war path when they attempt to break their home duck with the visit of Golden Arrows on Saturday, while Maritzburg go to Mamelodi Sundowns next week searching for a first win in five outings.