It was the Siphiwe Tshabalala show as Kaizer Chiefs moved into second spot on the Absa Premiership table when they defeated struggling Maritzburg United 3-1 in their league clash played at the FNB Stadium on Saturday night.
“Shaba” who returned earlier this week from a trial in England with Championship outfit Nottingham Forest scored twice and had a hand in the other goal as Chiefs romped to an impressive victory.
The win moved Amakhosi to 33 points, level with Ajax Cape Town but Chiefs have a better goal difference. Chiefs and the Urban Warriors are two points adrift of leaders Orlando Pirates who defeated Free State Stars 2-0 earlier on Saturday.
Chiefs held the upper hand in a drama-packed opening half.
Maritzburg had a penalty saved by in-form Chiefs’ keeper Itumeleng Khune and a goal disallowed for offside.
Chiefs piled on the pressure from the kick-off and were rewarded when their star winger Tshabalala scored the only goal of the half in the ninth minute. He waltzed through the United defence, rounded keeper Shu-Aib Walters and fired into an empty net.
The visitors made a game of it. United striker Diyo Sibisi caught the Chiefs’ defence sleeping but his shot flew marginally wide of the woodwork in the 13th minute.
But Chiefs kept driving forward looking for a second goal and came close when Mandla Masango shot wide on 21 minutes and then a minute later Walters did well to turn a blistering shot from Stanton Lewis for a corner.
At the other end, Khune fisted a long-range shot from Kurt Lentjies over his crossbar on the half hour mark.
Referee Daniel Bennett awarded the visitors a penalty when he adjudged Chiefs’ defender Valery Nahayo to have handed the ball inside his penalty area in the 32nd minute but again Khune did well to save Rudolf Bester’s spot kick.
Khune, the undisputed Bafana Bafana number one keeper showed his class when he pulled off a brilliant save from a Gert Schalkwyk rocket in the 40th minute.
More drama unfolded two minute later when Bennett disallowed a goal from Bester for offside.
What annoyed United and their volatile coach Ernst Middendorp was the way in which the assistant referee took his time to flag for offside.
Despite the visitors’ protests, Bennett stuck to his guns and ruled out the goal.
Bennett and Middendorp, the former Chiefs coach, have a history. Bennett sent off the German-born coach during United’s Telkom Knockout semifinal against Orlando Pirates earlier this season.
Amakhosi had a chance to increase their lead in injury time but Masango shot over the crossbar from close range.
Chiefs continued to press after the break. Lewis who caught the eye had another goal-bound shot deflected for a corner in the 52nd minute.
Amakhosi’s pressure paid off six minute later when Nahayo headed home a well-directed Tshabalala corner to make it 2-0.
To their credit, the KwaZulu-Natal side refused to give in and reduced the deficit when substitute Fadlu Davids made it 2-1 in the 71st minute when he stabbed home Lentjies’ corner.
But “Shaba” killed off any hope of a United fight back in the 77th minute when he rounded off a tremendous Man of the Match performance to the delight of the 15 000 crowd.
Once again, he sliced through the fragile United defence and unleashed a thunderbolt which gave Walters no chance and put Amakhosi into an unassailable 3-1 lead.
Chiefs holding midfielder Reneilwe Letsholonyane was unlucky when his shot in the 82nd minute cannoned off the woodwork as Chiefs went in search of a fourth goal.
In the final minute, Walters pulled off a fine save from Chiefs’ substitute Abia Nale. – Sapa