By MJ Majuru
Kaizer Chiefs nearly pulled off a miraculous escape after being reduced to 10 men early on, but they ultimately went down 2-1 to SuperSport United in the Absa Premiership at the FNB Stadium on Wednesday night.
Big central defender Erick Mathoho was given his marching orders by referee Daniel Bennett after seven minutes, and that changed the character of the game completely.
Mathoho was guilty of body-checking SuperSport front-man Bradley Grobbler with no other defender in sight of the Bafana Bafana striker, and referee Bennett deemed it to be a professional foul on the edge of the penalty area.
And it didn’t take long for Matsantsantsa to take advantage of their extra man. After Dove Wome missed a great chance in the 12th minute, following a super pass by Thuso Phala, Wome turned the provider a minute later.
The former Pirates man delivered a chip of his own into the box, and with Mathoho off the field, Aubrey Modiba had a free header that he buried into the back of the net.
SuperSport piled on the pressure after that, and it led to Chiefs boss Steve Komphela making an odd decision to substitute the remaining centre-back, Lorenzo Gordinho, with another in Daniel Cardoso.
A more logical change would’ve been to take off an attacking player to shore up the defence, and it meant that Amakhosi were almost always caught short at the back.
Phala had an attempt cleared off the line in the 20th minute, while Wome had a “goal” disallowed after being ruled offside soon after.
Things went from bad to worse for Chiefs and Komphela as another defender, left back Tsepo Masilela, was forced to limp off after his clash with his own goalkeeper Brilliant Khuzwayo when the Phala shot was cleared off the line.
Players from both teams started to fly into tackles, and there were some further yellow cards dished out by Bennett.
After absorbing all the pressure from SuperSport, Chiefs conceded a second goal on the stroke of halftime.
Midfielder Teboho Mokoena delivered a brilliant through-ball up the middle and found Grobbler and beat the offside trap, with the striker firing his shot under the body of Khuzwayo to put Matsatsantsa 2-0 up at the break.
SuperSport coach Eric Tinkler added prolific New Zealand striker Jeremy Brockie upfront at the start of the second half in the search for more goals.
But Chiefs clawed their way back into the game and eventually became more comfortable on the ball as SuperSport sat on their 2-0 lead.
That was a mistake by the Pretoria side, as Amakhosi nearly struck in the 62nd minute when Siphiwe Tshabalala had a chance at point-blank range, but SuperSport goalkeeper Ronwen Williams tipped the ball over the bar.
But four minutes later, Gustavo Paez pulled one back for Chiefs as SuperSport failed to clear their lines, and the home side were right back in it.
Komphela’s men pushed forward in the final minutes but were just unable to grab the equaliser as SuperSport held on for all three points.