PSL Roundup: Billiat shines as Chiefs finally get a win
New man, Khama Billiat, had Kaizer Chiefs looking like the good old days as Chiefs earned their first victory of the PSL season with a 4-1 win over shorthanded Cape Town City on Saturday.
Chiefs traveled to Cape Town, winless through the season’s first five league games, and that poor form had the Glamor Boys in the extremely unglamorous bottom-end of the table on four draws and a loss. That misery was compounded by the fact that last weekend Cape Town City punched its ticket to the MTN8 Cup Final by beating Mamelodi Sundowns on penalties, while Chiefs squandered its final chance by trying to eek out a 0-0 draw in the second leg of the semifinals with SuperSport United. The defensive effort didn’t work as SuperSport scored and advanced past Chiefs into the finals on a 3-2 aggregate.
This weekend, Chiefs (5th1-4-1, 7pts) showed much more offensive intent and it paid off.
Amakhosi started the game with sustained pressure on Cape Town City’s defense and broke through with a goal from Siyabonga Ngezana in the 12thminute. But then, typical of the season so far under new coach Giovanni Solinas, the breaks started going against Kaizer Chiefs.
Cape Town City (12th1-2-2, 5pts) equalized when Matthew Rusike, a former Chiefs player, nodded home a goal off a City corner kick in the 25thminute. Moments later, Chiefs were forced to make a first-half substitution when forward Leonardo Castro limped off with an injury.
Castro was replaced by Chiefs mainstay Bernard Parker who offered a solution to Chiefs’ problems by repeatedly feeding the ball to the team’s offseason signing and newly minted talisman, Billiat. Five minutes into the second half the Zimbabwean striker used a diving header to get on the end of a cross from Parker and put Chiefs up 2-1.
When City was reduced to 10 men through Taariq Fielies being shown his second yellow card in the 68thminute, Parker and Billiat pounced on the opportunity. Billiat added a second goal in the 79thminute after Chiefs once again had City’s defense scattered all over the box through a well-organized attack. Substitute Philani Zulu came on and was bright for Chiefs, ultimately netting the team’s fourth goal in the game’s dying minutes.
Only a few games into his Chiefs career, Billiat – who was a proven goal scorer at Ajax Cape Town and Sundowns – is beginning to successfully bring creativity and quality in the final third to a side prone to getting bogged down in defensive play.
For his part, Parker looked dangerous going forward even if his finishing left a lot to be desired. Parker’s left foot hits the ball with the precision of someone swinging a sledgehammer while blindfolded and on his preferred right foot, Parker repeatedly failed to put the ball on target. However, his work rate and ability to get into good spaces kept Cape Town City’s defense scrambling and opened up opportunities for Billiat.
Kaizer Chiefs still have plenty of problems, evidenced by how City kept creating goal-scoring chances even after going down a man, but Billiat’s brilliance can cover up many of the team’s blemishes. If Parker and the rest of the Chiefs can continue creating chances for Billiat, there’s hope that the Soweto giants can crawl up the standings and challenge for the top spot.
BIDVEST WITS 0, MARITZBURG UNITED 0
Perhaps suffering from fatigue after contributing so many players to the South African national team over the international break, a league-leading Wits (1st4-1-1, 13pts) side that looked formidable prior to the break fumbled its way to a goalless draw on the road at last-place Maritzburg (16th0-2-2, 2pts).
The potent offense of Wits was wayward all game, missing plenty of chances and allowing Maritzburg to put them under threat with meaningful counter attacks. Wits now share first place with Celtic as its offensive onslaught of the first few games is starting to sputter.
BLOEMFONTEIN CELTIC 1, BLACK LEOPARDS 0
After being fired by Chiefs last season, Steve Komphela took his defensive tactics to Celtic and found success. Celtic has allowed just two goals this season, both in a 2-2 draw at Chiefs, and its stout defense was once again successfully on display in a road win against Black Leopards (10th1-2-2, 5pts).
The result puts Celtic (2nd4-1-0, 13pts) even with table-toppers Wits at 13 points, with Celtic holding second place on goal difference but having a game in hand. It may not be exciting, but defense wins championships and Celtic is starting to look like a title threat.
AMAZULU 3, MAMELODI SUNDOWNS 3
Goalkeeper Reyaad Pieterse was recently acquired by Sundowns from SuperSport and his debut on the road against AmaZulu was one to forget.
AmaZulu (8th2-1-2, 7pts) continued to enjoy its surprisingly good start to the season by carving up a soft Sundowns defense and peppering Pieterse with shots. Sibusiso Vilakazi saved Sundowns (9th1-3-0, 6pts) from defeat by scoring the equalizer in the 86thminute.
Sundowns stayed unbeaten in 17 straight league games going back to last season, but the defending champs and preseason favorites are off to a decidedly slow start and making a tight title race look likely.
ORLANDO PIRATES 3, SUPERSPORT UNITED 1
Following the infamous Thamsanqa Gabuza incident, Pirates (3rd3-1-2, 10pts) are enjoying a goal glut. Visiting SuperSport (4th3-0-2, 9pts) tied the game at 1-1 in the 70thminute, but Pirates kept building through the midfield and creating chances as Thembinkosi Lorch put Pirates back on top in the 83rdminute and Ben Motshwari added an insurance goal in the 87thminute.
HIGHLANDS PARK 2, GOLDEN ARROWS 1
Just like Kaizer Chiefs, Highland Park (6th1-4-0, 7pts) got its first win of the season. Of course, the difference is that Chiefs is one of the premier teams in the league and Highlands Park is a newly promoted side (albeit one with a lot of history).
Two first-half goals from Mothobi Mvala were enough for Highlands to win at home over Golden Arrows (11th1-2-2, 5pts). Highlands and Celtic are the only two undefeated team left in the league.
CHIPPA UNITED 1, BAROKA 0
Former SuperSport coach Eric Tinkler got his first win with his new side as Chippa (14th1-1-3, 4pts) beat visiting Baroka (13th1-2-3, 5pts) on Andile Mbenyane’s goal. Both teams looks to be headed for a relegation fight.
POLOKWANE CITY 1, FREE STATE STARS 0
In a match between two sides battling to finish somewhere in the middle of the table, Polokwane (7th2-1-2, 7pts) picked up an important home win over a Free State (15th1-1-3, 4pts). Free State appears unable to recapture last season’s surprisingly good form and if you want a dark horse pick for a squad that could find itself battling to stay clear of the bottom two, look no further than Free State.