DStv Premiership, FNB stadium, 21 January 2023
Kaizer Chiefs (0) 0
Mamelodi Sundowns (1) 1
A much improved performance by Kaizer Chiefs proved not quite enough to get anything from their hard-fought clash against Mamelodi Sundowns on Saturday evening.
Neo Maema's 20th minute goal was what ultimately separated the teams, but on the balance of play Amakhosi will feel they deserved a better result than the 1-0 scoreline in favour of their opponents.
The match began at a relatively slow pace, reflecting the mutual respect between these two titans of football, as both sets of players settled into the occasion.
Amakhosi had a lucky escape after five minutes when a ricochet off Edmilson Dove during a goalmouth scramble saw the ball come back off the woodwork, although Chiefs would have been desperately unlucky to have conceded like that.
On 14 minutes Nkosingiphile Ngcobo came very close to converting Yusuf Maart’s cross from the right.
Then, in the 20th minute, Sundowns broke the deadlock when Khuliso Mudau broke down the right flank and cut the ball back to Peter Shalulile to set up Maema, who finished with a first-time shot past Itumeleng Khune.
Chiefs responded positively to the concession of the goal and on more than one occasion Amakhosi were a matter of inches away from levelling.
First, on 26 minutes, Caleb Bimenyimana just failed to get his foot to a Reeve Frosler cross.
Then, a couple of minutes later ‘Mshini’ played a sublime through ball to Dolly, whose shot struck the upright, before he was called for being marginally offside.
Ashley Du Preez was also a constant danger, and was one of the leading factors in Chiefs putting Sundowns under pressure in possession.
He almost profited from it when Ngcobo won the ball high up the pitch but couldn’t quite find Du Preez free inside the box.
Bimenyimana came close again in first half added time but Dolly’s cross narrowly evaded his full-length lunge for the ball and they went into the break at 1-0.
Siyethemba Sithebe replaced Samkelo Zwane for the second half and Chiefs were immediately on the front foot, with Du Preez hitting the side netting from a tight angle.
Amakhosi did well to take the game to the runaway leaders of the league, and were also effective in disrupting their opponent’s momentum for much of the game, limiting the Brazilians attacking threat with tenacity in the tackle.
Meanwhile, at the other end, Du Preez, Sithebe and Dolly went close with half-chances that on another day might have resulted in a goal.
Wandile Duba came on for Bimenyimana in the 64th minute and immediately looked lively on the ball. Four minutes later, Edmilson Dove headed Dolly’s corner just over the crossbar as the hosts pushed hard for a deserved equaliser.
Coach Zwane sent on Kgaogelo Sekgota for “Mshini’ with 15 minutes remaining and as the match ebbed into its closing stages, he threw Mdu Shabalala into the fray in place of Dolly.
Sundowns, however, managed to survive the late onslaught and hold on for a victory they will consider themselves fortunate to have achieved.
After the match, Coach Zwane cut a frustrated figure, lamenting the fact that his team played better than the result suggests.
“Our plan was to force them to play inside, where we would win the ball, but there were about five situations where we then gave the ball back to them. We should have done better with our final third entry decision making. So today, if we were clinical, we could have scored four or five goals,” he said ruefully.
He continued, “The second half was better than the first half where we showed them too much respect. Sithebe gave us balance and we started to look like we could dictate terms in the midfield and we got better and better as the game progressed.
The coach believes the team is not far away from clicking, when everything they have been working towards will come together.
“We are trying to maintain a balance between results and playing good football. Sometimes with good football you pay the price, but we are getting there. We’ll be a different team very, very soon; a very difficult team to play against. Today the only difference was that we didn’t take our chances,” he concluded.
Amakhosi remain in 5th place on the DStv Premiership log. Their next match is at home to Royal AM on 29 January.
Chiefs XI: Khune © (32); Hlanti (23), Kwinika (4), Dove (2), Frosler (39), Zwane (37) (Sithebe (6) 45’), Maart (8), Nk Ngcobo (12) (Sekgota (14) 75’), Dolly (10) Shabalala (42)86’), Du Preez (9), Bimenyimana (28) (Duba (36) 64’)
Subs: Petersen (1); Solomons (18), Ngezana (30), Mashiane(23), Matlou (22),
Coach: Arthur Zwane
Sundowns XI: Williams (32), Mudau (25), Mvala (34), Kekana (20), Modiba (17) (Mkhulise (21) 90+1’), Mokoena (4), Zwane © (18) Sirino (10) 78’), Allende (11) Morena (27)90+1’), Maema (35), Shalulile (38), Mailula (33) (Mbule (24)78’)
Subs: Onyango (14); Ngobeni (37), De Reuck (3), Ralani (29)
Coach: Rhulani Mokwena