South African leaders Kaizer Chiefs draw after dramatic climax

Phill Magakoe
·2-min read
Samir Nurkovic (R) put Kaizer Chiefs ahead in a 1-1 draw against Bidvest Wits Wednesday in the South African Premiership

South African Premiership leaders Kaizer Chiefs hit the woodwork and conceded an equaliser in a dramatic finish to a 1-1 draw with fifth-place Bidvest Wits in Soweto Wednesday.

Serbia-born man of the match Samir Nurkovic rattled the crossbar with a curling shot two minutes from time behind closed doors at Orlando Stadium due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Relieved by the let-off, title outsiders Wits raced to the other end of the pitch and unmarked Cole Alexander volleyed a cross past Nigeria goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi to level. 

Nurkovic, who played lower league football in Slovakia before joining Chiefs last year, scored on 36 minutes when he punished a poorly organised defence to nod a corner into the net.

The match was the second in the Premiership since it restarted Tuesday after a 152-day suspension due to the COVID-19 disease.

Chiefs have 49 points from 23 matches in the richest African league as they seek their first silverware in five seasons.

Defending champions Mamelodi Sundowns trail by four points in second place but have played one match fewer and meet Chiefs on August 27 in a potential title decider.

"We messed up a bit in the first half when we had a numerical advantage in several attacking situations and failed to score," said Chiefs' German coach Ernst Middendorp.

- 'Equally difficult' -

"Wits were good tonight and our remaining seven matches are going to be equally difficult because we will face clubs seeking the title, a top-half position or battling relegation."

Wits coach Gavin Hunt, who strengthened his side by replacing midfielder Keegan Phillips with Cameroonian forward Bienvenu Eva Ng at half-time, was disappointed not to win.

"Lots of missed chances has been the story of our season," he lamented. "We would have won the Premiership by now if we had a forward capable of scoring 15 goals in a season.

"I was delighted with the spirit shown by the boys and if we continue to perform like this there will be more victories than defeats for us during the rest of the season."

No defender picked up Nurkovic when he soared to put Chiefs ahead with his 12th Premiership goal of the season -- two less than Golden Boot leader Frank Mhango from Orlando Pirates.

The Serb squandered a great chance to score again before half-time when he sidefooted wide with Wits goalkeeper Ricardo Goss far off his line.

Then Nurkovic was foiled by the woodwork before Alexander struck to lift Wits one place, 10 points behind Chiefs having played one match less.