Bernard Parker and Leonardo Castro (Press Association Images)
Kaizer Chiefs came from behind to stun Mamelodi Sundowns in a thrilling DStv Premiership clash on Sunday at Loftus Versfeld Stadium, as the log leaders were beaten for the first time in the league this season.
AS IT HAPPENED | Mamelodi Sundowns 1-2 Kaizer Chiefs
The 2-1 victory saw Amakhosi (28 points) finally break into the top eight with one game in hand over ninth place Baroka FC.
Sundowns (47 points) maintain a three-point lead over second place AmaZulu (44 points) and have two games in hand over Benni McCarthy’s men.
In a game of two halves, Chiefs were holding a strong defensive frame early on in the match and it was the home side who showed real attacking intent after seeing the majority of the ball possession.
Star forward Gaston Sirino exploited the space just outside the Amakhosi penalty area and was confident enough to pull the trigger with his curly shot catching Itumeleng Khune off guard.
The veteran goalkeeper, however, was at full stretch in attempting to stop the effort that went narrowly wide to Chiefs’ relief.
It took the Glamour Boys until the 30th minute to get a serious threat on goal.
Khama Billiat showed his class and instinct as a floating ball came towards him and with ease, the Zimbabwean chested the ball down towards Leonardo Castro.
The South American shot at goal was blocked by Dennis Onyango, however.
That clearly agitated Gavin Hunt in the technical area and it was an opportunity the Soweto giants would rue four minutes later as Sirino was left unmarked as he latched onto a ball in a dangerous area outside the box.
The Uruguayan, with immense class and technique, smoothly darted past three defenders, including Khune, to easily give the defending champions a 1-0 lead as he dinked the ball into the back of the net.
Just before the half-time whistle, Chiefs were dealt a serious blow as Billiat was replaced by Dumisani Zuma due to injury.
The ‘Sirino show’ continued as the forward threatened Chiefs defence time and time again.
The 30-year-old was dancing around his markers as he teed in a teasing ball into the penalty area which Lebo Maboe got hold of, but his first touch let him down as Khune covered enough ground to bury his attempted shot.
Hunt then introduced Samir Nurkovic for Lebogang Manyama and the Serbian-born striker brought just the kind of energy upfront that the Glamour Boys needed to search for an equaliser.
And his presence did just that, as the striker found himself on the right wing and on the receiving end of through ball from Reeve Frosler.
The 28-year-old then looked to play in a low cross for his incoming team-mates in the Sundowns box but Mosa Lebusa’s attempt at blocking the effort saw the ball deflect into the back of his own net beyond Onyango’s reach.
With the scores level at 1-1 Sundowns showed some vulnerability for the first time as the match restarted.
Less than two minutes after equalising, Chiefs took the lead.
Rising Amakhosi star and man-of-the-match Njabulo Blom split the Sundowns midfield and defence with a stunning through ball that Zuma, who beat the offside trap, ran onto to put the ball beyond Onyango with a low placed finish.
A stunned Sundowns bench responded with four changes as Kermit Erasmus, Ricardo Nascimento, Aubrey Modiba and Promise Mkhuma replaced Gift Motupa, Brian Mandela, Lyle Lakay and Sirino.
Erasmus, who recently returned from injury, made Khune work with a deft long-range strike in injury-time which the Bafana Bafana goalkeeper acrobatically punched away.
That effort was the last opportunity to earn Sundowns at least a point but Chiefs hung on to give Hunt’s side a worthy victory in the end.