BETHLEHEM – Kaizer Chiefs had to rely on a second-half stoppage time goal to see off Free State Stars 1-0 in an Absa Premiership at Goble Park in Bethlehem on Wednesday evening.
With Chiefs doing all the pressing in the closing stages, Stars goalkeeper Badra Sangare was forced to tip a shot from Bernard Parker over the crossbar.
From the resulting corner delivered by Siphiwe Tshabalala, Teenage Hadebe steered the ball home to keep the Amakhosi’s slim league title hopes alive.
Stars, who had to play through extra time before seeing off National First Division side Ubuntu Cape Town in a thrilling quarter-final penalty shoot-out in the Nedbank Cup on Sunday, showed some form of fatigue.
But with the Chiefs’ attackers struggling to find the target, a stalemate would have been a fair result.
Stars did their homework well, and with their suspended coach Luc Eymael watching on from the grandstand, they did well to blot out the lethal attacking skills of Chiefs striker Leonardo Castro.
The former Mamelodi Sundowns man’s best chance of breaching the Amakhosi defence came in the 15th minute, but Sangare was alert enough to beat the Colombian to the ball.
Castro tried to head Chiefs into the lead in the 57th minute, but again a full-stretched save by Sangare kept the scoreline level.
A few minutes earlier, Stars nearly took the lead when the highly experienced Paulus Masehe put in a powerful shot on goal, but the former Orlando Pirates man could only watch on as Chiefs goalkeeper Itumuleng Khune pushed the ball wide from danger.
Sinethemba Jantjie and Siphelele Mthembu also had good chances to make Khune take the ball out of the Chiefs goal-net, but it was not to be.
Chiefs move to 39 points from 25 games, and will have to avoid any form of dropped points if they are to keep the pressure on log-leaders Mamelodi Sundowns and second-placed Orlando Pirates in the run-in to the end of the league campaign.
The Amakhosi will host Chippa United in their next league encounter on Saturday. The win will also take some pressure off of Chiefs, who had not won in a league game since February 17 against Cape Town City, returning two draws and a loss in the meantime.
Stars, who had been on a five-match unbeaten until their recent league loss to Chippa, remain on 37 points from 25 games, and will travel to KwaZulu-Natal for their next league fixture against Golden Arrows next Wednesday.
African News Agency (ANA)