Marco Mthembu scored a brilliant goal five minutes into the second half to put Kaizer Chiefs on their way to a 2-0 win against Ghanaian giants Hearts of Oak on Saturday, and reserved a place in the final of the Vodacom Challenge.
Mthembu, sporting a cheeky new hairstyle, unleashed a superb strike to round off a great build-up between new signing Stanton Fredericks and Justice Sithole.
Hearts brought with them a track record of two-time winners of the African champions crown, and on paper were a sure bet to give Chiefs a hard run for their money.
Nevertheless, the youthful Chiefs stars found their footing quickly against their more experienced rivals.
Vice-captain Thabo Mooki was out with a rib injury, so new signing Fredericks was drafted in, and he had an excellent debut in the Chiefs colours.
The crowd just loved Jabu Pule’s dazzling foot work. He provided the spark and for the Amakhosi. His brilliant performance was completed with a well-taken goal in the 77th minute, with substitute Lucky Maselesele supplying the pass.
Goalkeeper Rowen Fernandez – who was signed from Wits University last week – was between the posts in the absence of Brain Baloyi.
Fernandez almost conceded his first goal in the Chiefs side on 28 minutes as he committed himself to the ball and left his area unprotected, but defender Gary Goldstone was at the right place to clear a goal-bound shot from Laryea Kingston, who later made way for Abbey Wisdom on 60 minutes.
Justice Sithole’s shot hit the site netting on 44 minutes after great pass from Fredericks and both sides went into the break with their goal intact.
The Amakhosi came to life shortly after the restart with a number of attempts at goal. Pule hit the crossbar and was well positioned to put away the rebound, but the linesman had his flag up.
A minute later Hearts defender Dan Quaye miss-kicked as he tried to clear long ball with Luke Petros in pursuit, but the danger was averted. Petros made way for Lucky Maselesele on 55 minutes and Hearts made their own substitution as Owusu Afriyie came on for Kenneth Sarpong.
Chiefs new Mozambican signing Jose Macamo replaced Fredericks on 71 minutes. The former Costa do Sol man quickly made his presence felt with a brilliant cross in the 75th minute but Maselesele’s header was not powerful enough to hit the back of the net.
Chiefs supporters will now wait for a week to see if they can retain the kudu horn trophy they won last year with a 1-0 victory against rivals Orlando Pirates.
Kaizer Chiefs: 1-Rowen Fernandez, 5-Patrick Mabedi, 4-Cyril Nzama, 29-Gary Goldstone, 6-Nhlanhla Kubeka, 18-Arthur Zwane, 25-Marco Mthembu, 17-Stanton Fredericks, 11-Jabu Pule, 8-Luke Pertos, 21-Justice Sithole.
Hearts of Oak: 22-Adjfi Sammy, 26-Mireki Amankwaa, 13-Mohammed Hassan, 23-Dan Quaye, 17-Stephen Tetteh, 29-Adjah Tetteh, 27-Kenneth Sarpong, 20-Awuley Quaye, 14-Bong Bernard Bortey, 30-Laryea Kingston, 21-Samuel Monnie.
Pirates knocked by Asante
Orlando Pirates missed their chance to meet Kaizer Chiefs in the Vodacom Challenge final Durban on July 8 when they were beaten in a penalty shootout after their match against Asante Kotoko in Rustenburg finished 1-1.
Pirates took the lead through an opportunistic goal by Benedict Vilakazi late in the second half, but Asante Kotoko moved a gear up to level the score and then went on to win the match 4-2 on penalties.
Asante were on the back foot on 70 minutes and when Bucs went into the lead through a strike by Vilakazi, the Pirates ship appeared to be sailing into the final for a clash with Chiefs.
The Asante defence failed to clear a well-taken free-kick by Chikoya and quick following-up by Sikhosana then saw Vilakazi pounce on the loose ball to put Bucs in the driving seat.
But the Ghanaians quickly regrouped and a cross by Ahlssan Shilla found Joe Louis unmarked to stun the Buccaneers.
Brendon Silent started warming up seven minutes before the break but he was only introduced at the beginning of the second half in place of Thabang Lebese.
When the match nervously went into the penalty shootout, both teams knew that the match could go either way, with the form displayed during the match playing no part in the final outcome. Jerry Sikhosana and Innocent Chikoya scored the first two penalties for Pirates, but then Warren Lewis and Denis Lota couldn’t reach the back of the net. The confident Asante players however were successful with all four of their shots at goal.