Chiefs put pressure on Downs
Kaizer Mautaung (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg - Kaizer Chiefs have closed the gap on their PSL title rivals, edging out leaders Mamelodi Sundowns in their top-of-the table Absa Premiership clash at the FNB Stadium.
Downs still head the standings with 27 points after 13 matches but are now only one point ahead of second placed Amakhosi.
The only goal of the match was a neat header from Kaizer Motaung junior in the 57th minute.
It was the Brazilians' second successive defeat. They finished 2010 with a 3-2 home loss to AmaZulu.
However, losing to Chiefs, who are serious title contenders, will have sent shock waves through the big spending Sundowns camp and has put a question mark against their ability to lift the championship.
Sundowns coach Antonio Lopez Habas started the game conservatively, using only one striker in Mabhuti Khenyeza and opting to hit Chiefs on the counter attack.
Chiefs showed more aggression and initiative but shots on goal were few and far between in an uneventful opening 45 minutes. There was little for the 43,000 strong crowd to enthuse over.
The Brazilians can be aggrieved that they were not awarded a penalty in the 43rd minute when Franklin Cale's free kick bounced off Siphiwe Tshabalala's arm when the Chiefs midfielder tried to protect his face inside the penalty area.
The incident happened right in front of the assistant referee whose flag stayed down, and referee Chris Mfiki waved play on despite Downs players' protests.
The first shot in anger came from Sundowns midfielder Siyabonga Ngubane in the ninth minute when he fired wide of the woodwork.
Chiefs' first effort at goal was produced by midfielder Reneilwe Letsholonyane in the 13th minute, but his shot also went wide.
Chiefs goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune was called into action for the first time in the 34th minute when he did well to fist away a dangerous Cale free kick.
Downs keeper Wayne Sandilands was not called on to make a single save in a dull first 45 minutes.
Chiefs' leading goal scorer, Knowledge Musona, who had an otherwise quiet opening half, almost broke the deadlock with a clever chip that sailed centimetres wide of the upright in the 37th minute.
The second half was a big improvement on the first with both sides trying to make a game of it.
Motaung, who was earlier booed by the Chiefs fans, silenced his critics in the crowd when he out-jumped the static Sundowns defence to head home a superb cross from Tshabalala to put his side 1-0 ahead in the 57th minute.
The goal woke up the visitors and it took a tremendous save from Khune to deny Cale the equaliser with a blistering close range shot two minutes later.
Downs threw everything forward, searching for the equaliser, and were thwarted in the 80th minute when substitute Nyasha Mushekwi's goalbound shot was charged down inside the Chiefs penalty area.
It was a case of too little too late for the out of sorts Sundowns.
To their credit, Chiefs refused to sit on their 1-0 lead and kept pushing forward, and it took a stunning save from Sandilands to stop Punch Masenamela from stretching the lead five minutes from time.
Musona came close when he fired a thunderbolt over the Downs crossbar with three minutes remaining.