Johannesburg (AFP) – Serb Samir Nurkovic scored a hat-trick and Colombian Leonardo Castro scored twice as South African league leaders Kaizer Chiefs came from behind three times to beat Bloemfontein Celtic 5-3 this weekend.
Ndumiso Mabena, Congolese Harris Tchilimbou and Siphelele Luthuli put Celtic ahead in the first half and Nurkovic netted twice to leave Chiefs trailing 3-2 at half-time.
A second-half brace from former Mamelodi Sundowns star Castro, plus another Nurkovic goal in between, turned the tide to give Chiefs 34 points from 13 matches.
Victory for the Soweto club maintained a 10-point lead approaching halfway in the 30-round championship, the richest in Africa with a 15 million rand ($1 million) first prize.
Nurkovic, who joined Chiefs for the 2019/2020 season after playing for eight Slovak clubs, became joint leading league scorer with eight goals after claiming five in two matches.
His hat-trick against Celtic earned him the man-of-the-match award and he hailed the fighting spirit of the famed club, which has gone a record four and a half seasons without a trophy.
“This squad possesses amazing character and we never give up. We came from behind three times to finish convincing winners,” said the 27-year-old.
– ‘Wake up’ –
“We were behind at half-time and the message from the coach was to ‘wake up’. I have been with this team for five months and they are improving all the time.
“Thank you for the (man of the match) award, but all my teammates deserve to share this honour with me.
“Apart from the commitment of the players, I consider Kaizer Chiefs’ supporters the best in the world. They are long overdue a trophy and we intend winning the league for them.”
“We have a healthy lead close to the halfway stage and it is critical that we stay focused because Chiefs have won nothing yet.”
Chiefs, who turn 50 next month, had been consistent domestic trophy-holders up to the 2014/2015 season, winning 53 league and knockout trophies.
SuperSport United, whose three league titles came in consecutive seasons from 2008, stayed second with an impressive 2-0 home win over Highlands Park in Pretoria.
Thabo Mnyamane broke the deadlock on 19 minutes after the acceleration of Teboho Mokoena created an opening and Bradley Grobler sealed victory with a snap shot after 72 minutes.
Third-place Sundowns, who are seeking a third straight Premiership title, did not play as they had a CAF Champions League group date with Wydad Casablanca in Morocco, which ended 0-0.
Record nine-time South African champions Sundowns are 13 points behind Chiefs with two matches in hand.
A poor season for sixth-place Orlando Pirates continued as they surrendered a two-goal advantage in a 2-2 draw at Baroka, who are just two points above bottom club Stellenbosch.
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