Leonardo Castro opened his Kaizer Chiefs’ account in style, with a thunderbolt just 15 minutes into his debut, giving the Glamour Boys their first win over Baroka FC at the Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane on Sunday.
Chiefs’ bench once again helped Amakhosi come from behind to register a 2-1 win that pushed them to third place, and should give them confidence of ending their barren run under Steve Komphela.
Five points separate Chiefs and first-placed Mamelodi Sundowns.
Amakhosi can cut that lead to two points should they complete a double over the Brazilians next Saturday at FNB Stadium.
While Sundowns have been a stuttering train that steamrolls their opponents once they gain momentum, Chiefs’ jalopy has been slowly picking up momentum without much attention.
Komphela would have been relieved to see Castro finally get his work permit, which allowed him to make his debut just after the hour mark.
The Colombian striker started on the bench alongside former Baroka midfielder Siphelele Ntshangase in what was a strong bench, with Ramahlwe Mphahlele and Dumisani Zuma – who scored the winner against Polokwane City in Amakhosi’s last match – also part of the eight that waited to turn things around.
A strong bench is a luxury that Komphela hasn’t had the privilege to boast about in his almost three-season long stay at Chiefs.
But now that he has it, he has been very conservative in unleashing the club’s January signings, even though they have shown they can make a big impact at the club.
That bench helped Amakhosi come from behind to get all three points against Rise and Shine, and they did the same thing against Bakgaga.
Chiefs once again were to first to concede against a team from Limpopo, when Lucky Nguzana put the hosts ahead with a poacher’s goal.
The burly forward timed his run to perfection as he was the quickest to respond after Talent Chawapiwa’s shot hit the post and ricochet towards an empty box, which gave Nguzana plenty of room and time to beat Itumeleng Khune.
Baroka started the brighter of the two sides, buoyed by their unbeaten run against Amakhosi, which dates back to their days as an amateur side.
Chiefs responded swiftly at the start of the second half.
Ryan Moon made it two goals in two games by once again combining with Siphiwe Tshabalala to score the equaliser for Amakhosi against a team from Limpopo.
The 21-year-old forward also levelled matters in the 2-1 win over Rise and Shine. That goal opened up the match with both clubs giving as much as they got.
Chawapiwa pulled the strings for Baroka, proving a handful for Chiefs’ defenders who struggled to contain him legally.
George Maluleka and Ntshangase, after his introduction, dictated terms for Amakhosi in midfield in an entertaining spectacle that gave the thousands who came to Peter Mokaba Stadium value for their money.
Most of those fans were clad in the gold-and-black of Chiefs.
Those fans watched their team finish the last 16 minutes a man down after Joseph Molangoane was given a straight red card for elbowing Khutso Mohwatseleng.
It was an unnecessary sending off for Molangoane, who lost his cool, which should allow Mphahlele to return to the starting XI against his former team Sundowns.
Chiefs still had enough firepower to get the win even with a man down, as their marquee signing Castro ensured that they return to Johannesburg with maximum points to continue the good run that has seen them collect 13 points in their last five matches.