Sundowns, Chiefs play out draw in season opener

Jeremy Brockie of Mamelodi Sundowns is challenged by Daniel Cardoso of Kaizer Chiefs Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

Defending champions Mamelodi Sundowns were held to a 1-1 draw by Kaizer Chiefs in their opening fixture of the Absa Premiership at a sold-out Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

The match kicked-off 15 minutes late due to the throngs of fans trying to access the stadium and was in the end a match of few chances between two of the major title contenders this season.

Chiefs took the lead inside eight minutes when fullback Ramahlwe Mphahlele capitalised on some hesitant defending and placed the ball past Sundowns goalkeeper Denis Onyango.

The Brazilians were level though just before the half-hour mark when Chiefs defender Daniel Cardoso bundled Sundowns striker Jeremy Brockie over in the box and referee Victor Hlongwane correctly awarded the penalty.

Brazilian defender Ricardo Nascimento just about beat Chiefs goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune from the spot, though the Bafana Bafana gloveman might feel he should have done better.

Both sides had opportunities to win the game after that, but in the end had to settle for a draw, a result which will be more keenly celebrated on the side of Chiefs. 

Another of this year's title favourites Orlando Pirates were held to a 1-1 draw by newly-promoted Highlands Park, a disappointing start to their league season.

Highlands Park, who topped the National First Division last season, took the lead through a Gladwin Shitolo own goal in the first half. 

The introduction off the bench of Zambian forward Justin Shonga proved profitable for Pirates as he netted an equaliser 15 minutes into the second period for Pirates.

But neither side could find a winner in the time that remained, and it is a disappointing start for The Buccaneers in a season in which they expect to be among the front-runners.

The Soweto club did hand a debut to 16-year-old attacking midfielder Augustine Mahlonoko, who was only promoted to the first team this week. 

Bidvest Wits started their season with a convincing 3-0 victory over Free State Stars as the 2016 champions sounded a warning of their potential.

The side is much changed this year with coach Gavin Hunt bringing in players with proven Premiership experience and they never looked troubled against Nedbank Cup champions Stars.

Thulani Hlatshwayo tapped home the first goal, before Mxolisi Macuphu and Namibia international Deon Hotto score on debut for The Clever Boys.

Cape Town City were also worthy 2-0 winners over SuperSport United in a game they dominated in terms of territory and possession.

But it took until the second half for coach Benni McCarthy's side to take the lead as Austrian midfielder Roland Putsche crashed home an excellent shot from 20-yards.

The points were made safe a few minutes later when winger Craig Martin added a second with a tap-in after excellent work from Thabo Nodada.

Newly promoted Black Leopards got their campaign off to a fine start with a 1-0 victory over provincial rivals Polokwane City. Karabo Tshepe got the only goal from a free-kick.

Finally, Njabulo Sithebe scored the only goal of the game as AmaZulu defeated Baroka FC 1-0 in Durban. 

There are two more fixtures to be played on Sunday afternoon, with a KwaZulu-Natal Derby between Maritzburg United and Golden Arrows, and a clash between Bloemfontein Celtic and Chippa United.