Niemach takes Chiefs to Top Eight final

Kenny Niemach scored a 34th minute goal on his debut to give Kaizer Chiefs a 1-0 victory against rivals Orlando Pirates in the BP Top Eight semifinal at FNB Stadium on Saturday.

News about Niemach’s arrival at Naturena was kept secret in the build-up to this duel and this appeared to work wonders as Pirates seemed to have left the lanky striker out when planning their defense.

A long ball from midfield workhorse Arthur Zwane found an unmarked Niemach in the danger area and the result from his header was a goal on his debut – the first Chiefs player to score on his first appearance for the Glamour Boys since the start of the Castle Premiership.

It was 28 days since the two giants crossed paths at the same venue in the Charity Cup and after 90 minutes, many people felt Pirates were lucky to win that one. On this sunny Johannesburg day, Chiefs were intent on showing they deserved to win on the previous occasion.

This was the second encounter between the two Soweto giants this season. Pirates won the first duel with unsettled striker Phumlani Mkhize giving the Sea Robbers the edge.

Niemach was immediately thrown into the deep end as new revelation Jossias Macamo was benched. Jabu Pule, spotting a new blond hairstyle, also made a surprise comeback and Stanton Fredericks joined Macamo on the bench.

Pirates wavered their right to warm-up prior to the match and only came out just in time for the kick-off. But the decision backfired as the players looked rusty following a long lay-off.

Before this Top Eight semifinals, Pirates players had not touched a ball in a match situation for two weeks. They last played against Ajax Cape Town in the abandoned league match on August 12.

When their midfield talisman Innocent Chikoya left the field injured in the 44th minute, the Buccaneers appeared to be sailing in troubled waters.

Meanwhile, Chiefs looked sharp in attack an solid in defence following their 2-1 league win against Classic on Wednesday.

Mkhize was not at his best as he was the last time around. He tried his best to quell the notion that his heart was no longer with the Sea Robbers after reports that he was on the verge of signing for Chiefs. Midfield anchorman Thabo Mngomeni later replaced the former African Wanderers marksman in the 53rd minute.

Chiefs goalkeeper Brian Baloyi made a spectacular save from close range in the 28th minute to deny diminutive striker Benedict Vilakazi.

Pirates had another great chance on 75 minutes but pressure got the best of second half substitute Denis Lota. Warren Lewis delivered a cross and Vilakazi laid the ball to Lota, who agonisingly failed to connect to the ball.

Pirates had most of their hopes on former Chiefs men, Ndlanya and Thabang Lebese. But the two struggled to inspire Pirates against a determined Chiefs defence.

Ndlanya, who later made way for Denis Lota in the 72nd minute, was given very little space to breath and Lebese lost the battle in the midfield.

Prior to the 15:00 kick-off the few supporters who took the trouble of arriving early were treated to a medley of music by Y-MF disc jockeys.

Putco Mafani of Chiefs and his Pirates opposite number Thabiso Parkies did their public relations work by dancing around the Top Eight trophy, with Mafani occasionally grabbing and running around with the silverware and Parkies doing the chasing.

Chiefs will now meet Sundowns in the final on September 1.

Teams:

Kaizer Chiefs: 16-Brian Baloyi, 4-Cyril Nzama, 5-Patrick Mabedi, 6-Nhlanhla Kubeka, 9-Lucky Maselesele (23-Jossias Macamo 83rd), 11-Jabu Pule, 12-Thabo Mooki (10-Stanton Fredericks 67th), 18-Arthur Zwane, 25-Marco Mthembu, 28-Patrick Mbuthu, 20-Kenny Niemach (24-Isaac Mabotsa).

Subs: 1-Rowen Fernandez, 10-Stanton Fredericks, 3-Rodney Thobejane, 24-Isaac Mabotsa, 13-Thabiso Malatsi, 22-Nhlanhla Mathebula, 23-Jossias Macamo.

Orlando Pirates: 1-Williams Okpara, 2-Mbulelo Oldjohn, 4-Innocent Chikoya (7-Warren Lewis 44th), 5-Bennedict Vilakazi, 11-Phumlani Mkhize (27-Thabo Mngomeni 53rd), 12-Godfrey Sapula, 14-Tomas Inguana, 16-Gerald Raphahlela, 17-Pollen Ndlanya (29-Denis Lota 72nd), 20-Brendan Silent, 21-Thabang Lebese.

Subs: 25-Thabang Radebe, 27-Thabo Mngomeni, 7-Warren Lewis, 29-Denis Lota, 6-Willem Jackson, 28-Phumlani Khubeka.

Referee: Petros Mathabela.