Chiefs miss out on chance to go six clear

Kaizer Chiefs missed out on the chance to go six points clear at the top of the Absa Premiership, resuming their league campaign with a 1-1 draw at home to Bidvest Wits at Orlando Stadium on Wednesday.

The Amakhosi looked set to take a major step toward the title thanks to Samir Nurkovic’s first-half header, but a late equaliser from the Clever Boys’ Cole Alexander put a dampener on the evening for the Soweto giants, who are four points clear of nearest chasers Mamelodi Sundowns but have played a game more.

Chiefs created early aerial chances, with Eric Mathoho missing out from a corner kick in the opening minutes, while Samir Nurkovic met a long diagonal from Yagan Sasman and forced Ricardo Goss into a sharp save with a well-placed header.

Wits gradually settled into the match and had Terrence Dzvukamanja as a willing and energetic runner in attack, though too often their final pass or cross lacked the necessary quality to trouble the hosts’ defence.

There was no lack of quality in the goal which broke the deadlock in Chiefs’ favour in the 36th minute. Lebogang Manyama provided a perfectly directed cross from a corner kick and Nurkovic scored with a glancing header beyond the right hand of Goss, racking up the Serbian’s 12th league strike of the season.

Wits almost forced an equaliser in injury time at the end of the first half, with a Deon Hotto shot direct from a free kick forcing a fumble from goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi but – after a penalty area scramble – Chiefs right-back Kgotso Moleko was brilliantly positioned to block Cole Alexander’s goal-bound effort.

Wits made a double change at the start of the second half, boosting their attack with the introduction of Bienvenu Eva Nga and Molahlehi Khunyedi. The former wriggled his way past Mathoho in the box within five minutes of his introduction, but the lanky defender recovered well to block a low shot.

Leonardo Castro nearly doubled the Amakhosi’s advantage in the 53rd minute, nonchalantly skipping past two defenders before firing a powerful effort which stung the palms of Goss. However, the Colombian striker soon succumbed to an injury and was replaced by Dumisani Zuma.

Chances were few and far between for the remainder of the game, though Nurkovic nearly sealed the three points with a beautiful strike on 88 minutes which rattled the crossbar.

Just a minute later, the Clever Boys drew level. Substitute Kgaogelo Sekgota did great work down the right flank and picked out an unmarked Alexander in the middle of the box – the midfielder swept home a low volley to secure a 1-1 draw, and keep the title race achingly close.

The teams will return to Absa Premiership action this coming weekend, with Chiefs away to Polokwane City at Loftus Versfeld Stadium on Saturday afternoon and Wits visiting Orlando Pirates at Ellis Park later the same day.

Kaizer Chiefs (1) 1 (Nurkovic 36’)

Bidvest Wits (0) 1 (Alexander 89’)

Kaizer Chiefs: Akpeyi, Moleko (Parker 84’), Cardoso, Mathoho, Sasman (Ntiya-Ntiya 83’), Manyama, Katsande, Ngcobo (Blom 61’), Billiat, Castro (Zuma 56’), Nurkovic

BidVest Wits: Goss, Macheke, Gordinho, Hlatshwayo, Phillips (Eva Nga 46’), Domingo (Sekgota 80’), Alexander, Nange, Hotto, Human (Khunyedi 46’ [Machupu 71’]), Dzvukamanja (Monare 90+4’)