But thanks to a late winner by defender Lorenzo Gordinho, the Glamour Boys were spared another embarrassing outcome, which would have seen them lose further ground in the Absa Premiership title race. They are still some way off the pace as they trail log leaders Mamelodi Sundowns, who face Free State Stars in Orkney this afternoon, by seven points.
Last night, what looked like a comfortable win and anticipation that the defending champions would finally register back-to-back victories for the first time since April last year under a different coach, turned into a nightmare in the second half. Chiefs went into the half-time break as favourites to clinch maximum points, but they were barely in the driving seat as they finished a nervy first 45 minutes. Willard Katsande was again the man of the moment when he calmly converted from the penalty spot five minutes into the match.
It was their fluid passing play that had given Chiefs an advantage over a team that only managed a single win in 16 games coming into this encounter, striker Camaldine Abraw beating the offside trap and being left with only the goalkeeper to beat. Glenn Verbauwhede, the last line of defence for Maritzburg, brought down the Togolese forward for a spot kick, which Katsande put away to break the deadlock.
Chiefs were cruising when Abraw got on the score sheet with a headed goal after connecting George Lebese’s timely cross from the left flank. Komphela was on the verge of a milestone since his arrival at the club in June – winning consecutive Premier League matches. That quickly changed, but would later stick after Gordinho’s late goal, when defender Thamsanqa Teyise pulled one back on the stroke of half-time. Suddenly, the Chiefs mentor was in danger of suffering a third defeat of the season.
He had made several changes to his starting line-up and, until Evans Rusike levelled matters four minutes from the break, would have been vindicated, as the visitors had not been too much of a threat. Siyanda Xulu, the club’s high-profile signing at the start of the season, returned to the pitch for the first time since September having lost his place to match-winner Gordinho, whom he partnered in the absence of Eric Mathoho, who is serving a one-match ban.
In midfield, Lucky Baloyi also made a rare start in place of Reneilwe Letsholonyane, who was also suspended. While Baloyi gave a good account of himself, Xulu is probably heading back to the stands. It was his mistake that led to Rusike’s goal after a failed attempt at a pass to Gordinho, which allowed the Maritzburg striker to pounce and put the ball past ’keeper Reyaad Pieterse.
Chiefs pulled out all the stops in the dying minutes of the game. And the visitors, who had conceded nine goals in three games coming into this clash, cracked right when it mattered most. Siphiwe Tshabalala sent an inviting cross from a corner kick and, as scripted, Gordinho jumped high tohead home the winner.
Komphela will feel Chiefs can kick-start a run of wins to mount their title defence, while Maritzburg continue to huff and puff at the foot of the table.
In yesterday’s early matches, Mpumalanga Black Aces and Bloemfontein Celtic played to a goalless draw, and Bidvest Wits bounced back to winning ways when they beat Golden Arrows 1-0 away to move to the second spot on thetable with 36 points.
The Braamfontein side trail Mamelodi Sundowns by three points.
Kaizer Chiefs (2) 3
Katsande 5, Abraw 37, Gordinho 90
Maritzburg United (1) 2
Teyise 42, Rusike 49
– THE SUNDAY INDEPENDENT
Original source: Gordinho winner spares Amakhosi