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Leaders Kaizer Chiefs suffer stunning loss to strugglers AmaZulu

Johannesburg (AFP) – South African Premiership leaders Kaizer Chiefs suffered an unexpected setback to their title hopes this weekend when losing 1-0 at home to relegation candidates AmaZulu.

Bongani Ntuli took his league goal tally this season to 12 by netting on 44 minutes at Soccer City stadium in Soweto.

A careless surrender of possession in midfield by Chiefs enabled AmaZulu to attack down a sparsely populated left flank through Zimbabwean midfielder Talent Chawapiwa.

His cross eluded Chiefs centre-back Daniel Cardoso and unmarked Ntuli side-footed the ball past Nigeria goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi from point-blank range.

It was the first win for Durban-based AmaZulu over Chiefs since March 2007, a result that ended the first spell of German Ernst Middendorp as coach of the famed Soweto club.  

Middendorp was given a second chance last season and has turned a club that finished ninth in the 2018/2019 Premiership into potential champions. 

The pressure on the 61-year-old is immense as Chiefs, the most successful South African club with 53 domestic titles, have not lifted a trophy since being crowned 2014/2015 champions.

Middendorp believed the triumph over arch rivals Orlando Pirates in a Soweto derby watched by a 90,000 crowd last weekend may have contributed to the stunning defeat by AmaZulu.

– ‘Too casual, too relaxed’ –

“After all the post-derby hype, perhaps we were a little too casual, a little too relaxed for the AmaZulu match,” he suggested.

“AmaZulu began the match in last position and were desperate for points. Against such teams, you dare not fall behind.

“What happened after they took the lead was entirely predictable, and occurs in leagues across the world.

“They erected a ‘wall’ with the intent of holding on to their lead and we could not find a way to break through. We did come close a few times, but luck was not on our side.”

Chiefs top the table with 48 points and while defending champions Mamelodi Sundowns are seven points adrift, they have played two matches less.

Sundowns were eliminated from the CAF Champions League this weekend, drawing 1-1 against Al Ahly of Egypt in Pretoria having lost the first leg 2-0 in Cairo.

Free of African commitments, Sundowns can concentrate of chasing a third consecutive league title and their April 15 showdown with Chiefs in Soweto looms as a potential title decider.

AmaZulu won for only the sixth time in 24 outings after a coaching shake-up with reserve team boss Ayanda Dlamini promoted and Slovak Josef Vukusic placed on unexplained “special leave”.

The triumph lifted them one place to 15th, three points above Black Leopards, who have played one match less.

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