Kaizer Chiefs (2) 3
Du Preez 4, Dolly 24, Shabalala 90 + 3
Maritzburg United (0) 0
A fresh, vibrant Kaizer Chiefs showed plenty of attacking quality and a ruthless streak in front of goal to get their DStv Premiership campaign off to a rousing start with a 3-0 home win against Maritzburg United.
After suffering an opening match loss on the road against Royal AM over the weekend, coach Arthur Zwane’s side were determined to lay down a marker and show their intent in their first match in front of their home fans at FNB Stadium.
And Chiefs put the visitors under pressure from the outset as they began the match in flying fashion, opening the scoring after just four minutes through the clinical Ashley du Preez.
Zwane made a change in midfield for this game, handing George Matlou a Chiefs debut alongside Yusuf Maart and Siyethemba Sithebe in the Chiefs engine room – with Maart and Matlou both involved in the Chiefs opener.
Maart broke up hesitant play from Maritzburg, looking to play the ball out from the back, before laying off a pass to Matlou, whose pass found Khama Billiat, the Zimbabwean international a bit fortunate to see a ricochet fall invitingly in the box to du Preez, who flashed his first time finish clinically into the Maritzburg net to give Chiefs the lead.
In the 14th minute, Reeve Frosler made a strong run down the left flank, his cut back falling to du Preez, who with his confidence up turned and struck a shot on goal that was deflected over the crossbar by Maritzburg defender Bonginkosi Makume – though an oncoming Matlou might have been better positioned to capitalise on the chance.
Chiefs continued to dominate the midfield exchanges, piling the pressure on the visitors, and it came as no surprise when they increased their lead in the 24th minute.
Maritzburg were again punished for lackadaisical defending from the back, with Maart putting Makume under all sorts of pressure and forcing an ill-judged back pass from the defender to his goalkeeper King Ndlovu, who under a challenge from Billiat cleared only as far as Keagan Dolly, the Chiefs winger whipping the ball into an empty net to punish the visitors and double the Chiefs lead.
The visitors were battling to claw their way into the game, getting their first sight on goal in the 26th minute when Tawanda Macheke rose highest to a corner, but he could only cushion his header well over the crossbar.
In the 31st minute Zambian international Friday Samu gave Chiefs a scare though, flashing a powerful volley from range which had the beating of Bruce Bvuma in the Chiefs goal – but thudded against the crossbar and out to safety.
In the 33rd minute another Chiefs new boy Dillan Solomons was played delightfully through by a silky Matlou champagne through pass, but his shot on goal was smothered by Ndlovu to keep Maritzburg in the game.
Unfortunately for Matlou and Chiefs, the debutant was forced off injured at halftime after feeling the effects of a strong Keegan Ritchie challenge and was replaced by Nkosingiphile Ngcobo.
After a pulsating opening half, Chiefs showed they were willing to dig in and fight to grind out a result, as they managed to keep Maritzburg at bay comfortably enough in the second half.
In the 56th minute, former Chiefs defender Ritchie struck a powerful free kick from range which looked to be sneaking in at Bruce Bvuma’s far post, but the Chiefs keeper did brilliantly to cover the ground to his right to make a fine save.
In the 67th minute Ritchie’s corner kick evaded the Chiefs defence and was flapped at by Bvuma, who was fortunate there wasn’t a Maritzburg touch on the end of the set piece, as it sailed harmlessly for a goalkick.
Man-of-the-match Maart continued to impress in marshalling the Chiefs midfield, while Sithebe showed he has plenty of defensive qualities to go with his attacking prowess, as Amakhosi’s midfield did a good job of protecting their defence.
Zitha Kwinika and Siyabonga Ngezana showed the makings of a strong defensive unit at the heart of the Chiefs defence, though there was a concern for Chiefs when Ngezana needed to leave the pitch in injury time with a knee injury to be replaced late on by Njabulo Ngcobo.
With the points safely secured, there was the icing on the Chiefs cake with virtually the last kick of the match, as 18-year-old late substitute Mduduzi Shabalala wrapped up the victory with his first goal in Kaizer Chiefs colours.
Maart was again instrumental in a delightful Chiefs move, as was substitute Kgaogelo Sekgota, who made a lovely run and pass for Billiat, whose dangerous cross from the left was met by the onrushing Shabalala, who made a beautiful late run into the box and applied the finish to seal the 3-0 win.
It was a high-quality win against a good Maritzburg side for Zwane’s charges, for whom the victory is a big confidence booster ahead of their big weekend clash against defending league champions Mamelodi Sundowns in their next game.
Man of the Match: Yusuf Maart
Stat of the match: Chiefs defeat Maritzburg by three or more goals in a league game for the third time after 2006/07 when they won 6-1 at home and 3-0 away
Next up: Chiefs next face Mamelodi Sundowns away on Saturday 13 August at 15h00
Chiefs XI: Bvuma (44), Ngezana (30) (Nj Ngcobo 90+3), Kwinika (4), Frosler (39), Solomons (18), Maart (8), Matlou (22) (Nk Ngcobo 45), Sithebe (6) (Blom 80), Dolly © (10) (Sekgota 80), Billiat (11), Du Preez (9) (Shabalala 86)
Subs not used: Petersen (1), Mashiane (19), Alexander (17), Radebe (33),
Coach: Arthur Zwane
Maritzburg XI: Ndlovu (31), Sam (19), Makume (5), Ritchie (16), Ndengane (27), Soukouna (11) (Palace 50), Mashikinya (18) (Baloyi 87), Theron (22), Human (10) (Skelem 50), Samu (20) (Kimvuidi 50), Macheke (9) (Conco 50)
Subs not used: Leaner (32), Monomodi (30), Hlongwa (4), Moloisane (23)
Coach: John Maduka