Aspirant champions Kaizer Chiefs' destiny in own hands after beating Chippa
Kaizer Chiefs kept their destiny in their ambition of winning the Absa Premiership title in their own hands with a 1-0 win against nine-man Chippa United on Wednesday night.
Khama Billiat’s ninth-minute strike at Orlando Stadium sealed just a second clinical victory since the return to football for a an Amakhosi who have been win-shy in the bio-bubble.
Perhaps, given Saturday’s final-round showdown could well be settled by goal difference, Amakhosi might have hoped for a bigger winning margin against a team ending with nine men. But the three points was certainly the foremost target for the aspirant champions.
Chiefs (56 points and a +21 goal difference) meet Baroka FC at Bidvest Stadium on Saturday, and second-placed Sundowns (56 and +18) face Black Leopards at Dobsonville Stadium, all matches kicking off at 3.30pm.
Chippa played around 25 minutes reduced to 10 players after they had midfielder Tercious Malepe sent off in the 67th minute. The Chilli Boys’ second dismissal was for Zimbabwean centreback Elvis Moyo in the 87th.
Chiefs coach Ernst Middendorp sensibly had Itumeleng Khune – bizarrely not seen even on the bench since the restart– back in goal after the concussion to Daniel Akpeyi.
Apart from being back to his normal foul mood, Middendorp had also made some strange starting selections, both seemingly counterproductively, as his team stumbled to one win in six in the bio-bubble before Wednesday night.
Middendorp had out an XI with a far more established look to it against Chippa, including Amakhosi’s tried and tested performers such as Reeve Frosler, Willard Katsande, Lebogang Manyama and of course the ever-threatening Samir Nurkovic.
Playing relegation teams desperate for points was supposed to disadvantage Sundowns.
But playing Lehlohonolo Seema’s strong-on-paper, well-organised Chippa, who needed a point to be safe from relegation, proved the more difficult outing for Chiefs than demoralised Polokwane City, who capitulated 3-0 to Downs.
Chippa (31 points), even with the defeat know they are safe from outright relegation thanks to Polokwane’s (25 points) defeat, and mathematically almost clear of the playoffs as second-last Baroka FC – 4-1 losers against SuperSport United – have 28 points.
Chiefs’ winner came early as Erick Mathoho, up for a free-kick, recovered a loose ball on the right of the area from a cross and chipped back in for Nurkovic to head a glance at the near post and Billiat to slide in for a finish at the goal-line.
Chippa had their chances, the best in injury time when Khune came out of his box and missed allowing Gamildien a chip at an exposed goal, with Daniel Cardoso the lone soldier back to clear in front of the line.
Chiefs’ patient waiting game probing for the right opportunity in the second half almost yielded that strike as Billiat was put through on a counterattack. Malepe desperately tripped from behind just outside the area, and with Chippa reduced to 10 men and the advantage seemed firmly in Chiefs’ hands to clinch the three points.
Amakhosi fell into the familiar trap, in such a situation, of defending deep.
They lived dangerously as, from a corner, replacement Boikanyo Komane headed in for Chippa but referee Jelly Chavani ruled for a foul on Khune when the keeper actually tripped over own player Mathoho.
With the clock winding down Moyo’s studs-up challenge on substitute Ramahlwe Mphahlele saw the defender dismissed by Chavani.