18 July 2011
South Africa’s Kaizer Chiefs netted a late winner to edge Champions League quarterfinalists Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 in the opening match of the Vodacom Challenge at Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane on Saturday.
Despite an impressive performance from the South African club, Chiefs coach Vladimir Vermezovic played down the win afterwards, telling Football 365: “It is always nice to win, but for us the win is not so important. It is still early and we must continue to work in training.
“It is a big motivation for our guys and I hope on Thursday we can play the same,” he said, looking ahead to a big clash with PSL champions Orlando Pirates at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth.
The structure of the tournament is such that Tottenham is guaranteed a place in the final with their opponent to be decided between Chiefs and Pirates.
Unfortunately for fans of Bafana Bafana, national captain Steven Pienaar, who plies his trade for the English Premier League club, missed Saturday’s clash because of a nagging groin injury.
Luckily for the sell-out crowd, the contest was hugely entertaining, although the winning goal came only two minutes from the end of time.
Spurs put Chiefs under pressure late in the second half, but for every question they asked the Amakhosi had an answer, especially goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune, who was named man of the match for his effort.
Not that Chiefs didn’t give as good as they got. In fact, Vermezovic’s charges created the better chances in the opening stanza and should have gone into the break a goal or two to the good.
With Siphiwe Tshabalala, Josta Dladla and Reneilwe Letsholonyane pulling the strings, Spurs were on the back foot, but Chiefs’ debutant Lehlohonolo Majoro spurned a couple of gilt-edged opportunities to put his team in front.
Just past the half-hour mark, Tshabalala set up Dladla for a shot on goal. Tottenham goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini managed to block the effort, but the ball fell for Majoro whose shot was then wide of the mark from a tight angle.
Not long after that Majoro, who was signed from AmaZulu, headed over the crossbar from close range after Kaizer Motaung junior had set him up with a pinpoint cross.
Spurs made some telling changes at the start of the second half, bringing on Gareth Bale, Peter Crouch, Rafael van der Vaart and Aaron Lennon.
Midway through the half, Bale found Crouch with a cross. The lanky striker headed the ball down towards the left hand corner, but Khune denied him with a superb save.
As time ran down, Bale fired just over the crossbar with a volley. Khune then pulled off a world class stop from the Welsh ace to deny Tottenham the win. Crouch acknowledged the brilliance of the effort by shaking Khune’s hand.
Moments later, Chiefs delivered a sucker punch when they caught out Spurs on the counter-attack to net the game’s only goal.
George Lebese, who had replaced Siphiwe Tshabalala in the 68th minute, was sent clear by a sweet through ball from Abia Nale. Bafana Bafana defender Bongani Khumalo, a second half substitute, and goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini tired to cover, but Lebese won the race to the ball and slotted the winner.
VODACOM CHALLENGE FIXTURES
Tue, 19 July, 20:15
Orlando Pirates vs Tottenham Hotspur, Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit
Thu, 21 July, 20:15
Kaizer Chiefs vs Orlando Pirates Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth
Sat, 23 July, 15:00
Winner “Derby” vs Tottenham Hotspur, Coca-Cola Park Stadium, Johannesburg
Would you like to use this article in your publication or on your website? See: Using SAinfo material