11.03.2015 22:37 h

Banda goal inflicts rare defeat on Chiefs

Zimbabwean Khumbulani Banda scored with his first touch to give Maritzburg United a shock 1-0 victory over leaders Kaizer Chiefs Wednesday and enliven the South African Premiership title race.

While Chiefs were slipping in the KwaZulu-Natal midlands to only a second loss in 23 league games this season, title-holders Mamelodi Sundowns pummelled Polokwane City 5-0 in Pretoria to move within eight points.

Zimbabweans also played a significant role in this match with Khama Billiat bagging a brace and joint leading Premiership scorer Cuthbert Malajila one goal.

Sundowns have a game in hand over Chiefs and will enjoy home advantage when the clubs clash on April 29 in a potential title-decider.

Third-place Orlando Pirates continued a good run under caretaker coach and former South Africa midfield star Eric Tinkler by defeating struggling Chippa United 2-0 in Soweto.

But the odds are stacked against the Buccaneers overtaking arch-rivals Chiefs with 11 points separating them and just seven rounds left.

The same applies to Wits, whose 3-1 defeat at bottom club AmaZulu was their second within five days after surprising Sundowns last week.

Chiefs have 51 points, Sundowns 43, and Pirates and Wits 40 each in pursuit of a 10 million rand ($815,000-775,000 euros) first prize.

The top two finishers also secure places in the 2016 CAF Champions League, an even more lucrative competition.

Without a league win in eight games, Maritzburg were underdogs against Chiefs despite having home advantage at Harry Gwala Stadium in Pietermaritzburg.

However, most of the 12,000 crowd crammed into the two-stand venue were wearing the gold and black of Chiefs in a match of few clearcut chances.

The game seemed destined for a goalless draw when wide midfielder Banda came off the bench with nine minutes left.

But when a Maritzburg corner swung into the goalmouth, dreadlocked Banda rose unchallenged to head powerfully past Chiefs goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune.

Rattled Chiefs launched a series of attacks to try and salvage a point and full-back Siboniso Gaxa came closest with a stoppage-time bicycle kick that rebounded off the crossbar.

While Chiefs paid a heavy price for once again failing to translate superiority into goals early on, Sundowns tore the worst Premiership defence to shreds as they built a 3-0 half-time advantage.

Malajila opened the scoring, Liberian Anthony Laffor got the second and Billiat the third against under-siege former Botswana goalkeeper MoPolokwane fightback, Billiat and Rodney Ramagalela scored in the final two minutes at Loftus Versfeld, a stadium Sundowns share with the Northern Buls Super 15 rugby side.diri Marumo.

After the hosts weathered a second-half Polokwane fightback, Billiat and Rodney Ramagalela scored in the final two minutes at Loftus Versfeld, a stadium Sundowns share with the Bulls Super 15 rugby side.