JOHANNESBURG – Kaizer Chiefs looked a lot more fluid in their attack as they put in a fine shift to eliminate Free State Stars 3-0 in the MTN8 quarter-finals on Saturday night.
The Glamour Boys were hapless earlier in the week when they were put to the sword by Bidvest Wits at the same venue, being thrashed 3-1 in their first home game this season under coach Giovanni Solinas.
A massive response was needed in this lucrative cup competition, and the Amakhosi almost effortlessly brushed the Bethlehem outfit aside with goals by Dumisani Zuma, Leonardo Castro and Khama Billiat.
With Siphelele Ntshangase – a man who arrived at Naturena in January from Baroka FC, but strangely spent more time on the bench than on the pitch – controlling the tempo of the match, Chiefs were extremely comfortable in the opening stages.
And their visitors were hardly a threat, absorbing the pressure and letting Chiefs come at them from all angles.
Solinas made four changes to the side that lost so heavily to Wits on Tuesday night, and that appeared to do the trick.
Itumeleng Khune, the goalkeeper and club captain, did not make the 18-man squad for personal reasons – his girlfriend having been involved in a horrific and life-threatening car crash a few days earlier – and the skipper was supposedly given time off to be with her.
New signing Virgil Vries made his debut as a result, but was hardly troubled.
In the other three changes, Erick Mathoho, Siphiwe Tshabalala and Bernard Parker all dropped to the bench and Siyabonga Ngezana, goal-scorer Zuma and Joseph Molangoane took their place.
Zuma broke the deadlock after just 20 minutes in a goal that perhaps best describes the fluid passing movements that could soon be synonymous with Chiefs under Solinas.
Ntshangase began the move deep in midfield by sending a pinpoint pass to winger Molangoane, who danced around the Stars defence in the box before setting up his teammate for a sublime finish.
Amakhosi fans would have loved seeing that over and over again – it was a pity that there were no replays inside the stadiums.
Chiefs were getting a second bite at the cherry by the time Zuma converted and opened the scoring.
Daniel Cardoso had earlier failed to capitalise on a goalkeeping error by Ali Sangare, sending his attempt over the bar with no one between the sticks.
But to their advantage, Stars – which was uncharacteristic of Luc Eymael’s team – were never able to regroup.
Chiefs punished them again as soon as both sides emerged from the dug-out – this time striker Castro finding the back of the next for the second time in a week, having scored against Wits in a defeat they quickly wanted to forget.
Ntshangase had been at the centre of it all yet again as he set up the Colombian forward to chip the ball over Sangare for the Chiefs double.
This much-improved performance will need consistency for Solinas to be a success at Naturena, but he will unfortunately have to make at least one forced change in their next game – a league fixture away to Baroka on Tuesday night.
Molangoane had to been taken to hospital early in the second half after a nasty challenge.
He came out worse off in a tackle involving Stars midfielder Makhehleni Makhaula, resulting in Molangoane suffering a broken ankle, which could likely sideline him for a few months this season.
Billiat added a third with virtually the last kick of the ball after referee Victor Gomes had played 13 minutes of extra time.