Siphiwe Tshabalala scored his first league brace for Kaizer Chiefs as the Soweto giants surged into second place on the Absa Premiership log with a 3-1 win over Maritzburg United at the FNB Stadium on Saturday evening.
Shaba’s brace sandwiched Stanton Lewis’ first goal for the Amakhosi, while Fadlu Davids scored the Team of Choice’s consolation goal. The final score line was perhaps harsh on the visitors, who troubled Chiefs at times, but in the end their poor defending, Tshabalala’s finishing and some great goalkeeping from Itumeleng Khune were the decisive factors in an entertaining match.
Chiefs started very confidently and opened the scoring after just nine minutes. A slick passing move put Siphiwe Tshabalala clean through on goal and the Bafana Bafana midfielder coolly rounded Shu-Aib Walters before stabbing the ball into an empty net.
United looked a touch shell-shocked at having gone behind so early on, but they very nearly summoned a reply in the 13th minute. Rudolf Bester stabbed in a cross from the right, Diyo Sibisi helped it on and the ball hit the outside of the post with Itumeleng Khune well beaten.
Stanton Lewis, making his first start for Amakhosi since the start of his loan move, was making a good impression with his energy and clever movement. He almost made it 2-0 to the hosts midway through the half but his low shot was well saved by Walters.
On the half hour mark Kurt Lentjies let fly from long range but his blistering shot was deflected just wide of the target by Khune’s fingertips. The effort from the midfielder was the first sign of the KwaZulu-Natal team beginning to turn the momentum of the game in their favour.
Two minutes later they were handed a golden opportunity to bring themselves level when referee Daniel Bennett adjudged Valery Nahayo to have handled the ball in the 18-yard box and awarded a penalty. TV replay suggested it was a slightly harsh decision.
Bester took on the responsibility of the spot kick but his effort was superbly saved by Khune, who dived quickly to his left to palm the ball away.
Five minutes before the break Khune made another terrific save, punching away a Gert Schalkwyk screamer that looked for all money like it was going to smash into the top corner of the net.
Just a minute later the Team of Choice thought they had the equaliser their pressure deserved, as Khune made another fine save from Sibisi, only to see Bester turn home the loose ball, but the striker was correctly flagged offside.
Chiefs surged into a 2-0 lead 13 minutes after the restart, with Lewis netting his first for the club. The striker deflected a Nahayo header into the net off his back. The goal could perhaps be credited to the tall defender, but his effort probably would have been saved and Lewis definitely got the last touch. Either way, it put the Amakhosi well in charge.
And the home did appear to be cruising until the 71st minute when Maritzburg pulled a goal back. Khune, who was superb throughout, was partially responsible for the goal, as he missed an attempted punch at a corner kick, allowing substitute Fadlu Davids to steer the ball home off his chest.
Yet any concern Chiefs had that they may let the game slip away from them were put to bed on 77 minutes when Tshabalala netted his second to make it 3-1. The midfielder surged past a weak challenge from Peter Petersen and fired the ball into the top corner from just inside the penalty area.
The home side almost scored a fourth in the dying minutes but Reneilwe Letsholonyane’s curling effort thundered back off the upright, with Walters well beate