21 February 2013

South Africa: Chiefs, Pirates Win in Close Title Race

Leaders Kaizer Chiefs and closest rivals Orlando Pirates won Wednesday to remain two points apart in the South African Premiership title race. Chiefs netted twice in the second half to triumph 3-1 at lowly Black Leopards while a goal soon after half-time earned defending champions Pirates a 1-0 home win over third-place Platinum Stars.

Free State Stars and Bidvest Wits were narrow winners over Maritzburg United and Chippa United respectively and the AmaZulu-SuperSport United and Pretoria University-Moroka Swallows games ended in draws. Chiefs have 42 points, Pirates 40 with a game in hand and Platinum Stars 37.

The race to cross the line first looks increasingly likely to be between the first three clubs in the table as fourth-place Free State are 11 points adrift of Chiefs with 11 rounds left. Chiefs made a perfect start in rain-swept northern city Polokwane with centre-back Tefu Mashamaite tapping home after a corner only for Nigerian striker Joshua Obaje to level before half-time. Zimbabwean striker Kingston Nkhatha restored Chiefs' lead midway through the second half and substitute midfielder Lucky Baloyi added a third goal deep in stoppage time.

Platinum, tipped as relegation candidates before the 2012-2013 season kicked off, were unlucky not to be ahead at half-time after Botswana midfielder Mogakolodi Ngele saw his shot beat Senzo Meyiwa but rebound off the post. The match winner at Orlando Stadium in Soweto came eight minutes after the break when Thandani Ntshumayelo burst through and his low cross was turned in at the far post by fellow midfielder Daine Klate. Meyiwa made a great reflex save from an Enocent Mkhhabela header and Thabo Matlaba of Pirates and Siphelele Mthembu of Stars were foiled by the woodwork as the Buccaneers ground out a victory.

It was a happy ending to a disappointing day for Pirates coach Roger de Sa as star centre-back Siyabonga Sangweni was ruled out before the game for up to six weeks due to a knee injury. Togo midfielder Dove Wome converted a free-kick four minutes from time to give Free State a 1-0 home victory over Maritzburg and Ryan Champman was Wits' match-winner in a comeback 2-1 victory against bottom club Chippa.

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