Kaizer Chiefs (0) 1
Marumo Gallants (0) 0
‘Hit Them Hard’ read a hand-painted sign on a bare chested Amakhosi fan’s chest in the stands at FNB Stadium.
And that’s exactly what Keagan Dolly did in the 77th minute of this game, his second half cracker from long range enough to give Amakhosi all three much-needed points against plucky visitors Marumo Gallants.
The winner may have taken a very kind deflection off Dolly’s partner in crime Khama Billiat, but it was a slice of luck Chiefs badly needed – and warranted – to snap a barren recent run without a win.
Dolly had received an innocuous inside ball from Njabulo Blom and from fully 25 metres out there seemed little danger for the visitors, but Dolly doesn’t need a second invitation to have a go and took matters into his own hands to strike a sweet winner for what was the game’s only goal.
It had taken Chiefs a while to break down a free-passing and confident Gallants side, but in fairness, the visitors provided little goalscoring threat given their glut of possession, with the man of the match Siyabonga Ngezana putting in a good shift in the heart of the Chiefs defence.
The visitors should have taken the lead in just the game’s fifth minute, as Chiefs had a let off when the visitors’ Celimpilo Ngema broke down the right, getting behind the Chiefs defence and whipping in an inviting ball which Mahlatse Makudubela could not connect meaningfully with when he had Bruce Bvuma’s goal at his mercy.
In the 13th minute, Ngezana had a gilt-edged chance for Amakhosi when he got to Biliat’s inswinging corner ahead of Gallants keeper King Ndlovu, but he could not direct his header goalwards.
On the half hour mark, Kearyn Baccus found some good space down the right to whip in a good cross for Bernard Parker, who had made a good run into the box but could not find the target with his header.
As coach Arthur Zwane had predicted before the game, Gallants enjoyed the lion’s share of possession and the greater passing numbers in the first half, but the Chiefs defence was largely untroubled as the first half ended goalless with Phathutshedzo Nange playing a good holding role in midfield.
In an attempt to play a more direct game, coach Arthur Zwane made early second half changes as soon as the 52nd minute as Leonardo Castro came on for Bernard Parker and Cole Alexander came on for Sabelo Radebe.
Chiefs had a scare on the hour mark when Ngema’s cross cum shot sailed across the face of goal, with Bvuma scampering and relieved to see the ball sail past the far post.
In the 61st minute, Kgaogelo Sekgota came on for the injured Baccus.
Njabulo Blom swung a dangerous ball into the Gallants’ box, which evaded all the defenders, but Billiat was unable to make meaningful contact on the far post as Chiefs upped the ante.
The attacking changes did have the desired result for Zwane, giving Chiefs the impetus to continue their search for maximum points they so badly needed.
Dolly’s goal was no less than Chiefs deserved in the 77th minute, but it needed some Bvuma heroics just a minute later to preserve that lead, the Chiefs keeper making a crucial double save to deny the visitors as the game suddenly sprung into life.
Billiat remained a threat throughout, until his very late substitution for Lazalous Kamboule. Blom also had a good late chance, but Chiefs hung on without further incident to claim the points.
Chiefs XI: Bvuma (16); Mphahlele (2), Ngezana (30), Frosler (39), Blom (45), Nange (24), Baccus (6) (Sekgota 61’), Parker (25) (Castro 52’), Radebe (33) (Alexander 52’), Dolly (10), Billiat (11) (Kambole 88’)
Subs not used: Akpeyi (40); Cardoso (4), Mabiliso (26), Mashiane (19), Nj Ngcobo (27)
Coach: Arthur Zwane
Gallants: Ndlovu (16); Gumede (29), Khiba (12), Mabotja (5), Nonyane © (18), Makudubela (32), Kumalo (30), Timm (6), Molangoane (21), Ngema (10), Ndlondlo (20),
Subs: Arubi (36);Manaka (3), Nhlapo (44), Sibeko (50), Ravhuhali (19), Mphambaniso (15), Koapeng (28), Mogakoe (47), Madhanaga (31)
Coach: Dan Malesela
What’s next: Chiefs next host DStv Premiership champions Mamelodi Sundowns at FNB Stadium on Sunday 8 May.
Man of the match: Chiefs defender Siyabonga Ngezana was composed at the back and a threat in the opposition box on a good night.