JOHANNESBURG – DEFENDING champions Kaizer Chiefs made a disappointing start to the SA Premiership season Sunday by only drawing 0-0 away to 10-man Chippa United.
Port Elizabeth-based Chippa are better known for continuously firing coaches and flirting with relegation than challenging for league and cup glory.
But they showed character not always evident last season when they narrowly avoided the drop to contain Chiefs despite playing more than half the match a man short.
United midfielder Joseph Molangoane was an accident waiting to happen during the opening half before a 36,000 crowd at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in southern coastal city Port Elizabeth.
His overly robust approach to middle-of-the-park contests saw him cautioned twice and red-carded within 38 minutes of the kick-off.
Chiefs, who won all four previous Premiership matches against Chippa, must have fancied their chances of another victory.
But the closest the Soweto outfit came to flying home with three points was a shot from winger Siphiwe Tshabalala soon after half-time that rebounded off the crossbar.
Chippa even carved out some chances of their own with Chiefs and South Africa goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune sticking out his left foot to block a close-range header.
“We did not match expectations — we came for three points and should have collected them against 10 men,” said Chiefs coach Steve Komphela.
“Defensively we were good, but offensively we were not.”
Former South Africa centre-back and captain Komphela was named Chiefs coach during the close season, succeeding Turkey-bound Englishman Stuart Baxter.
Chippa coach Roger Sikhakhane, who has been hired and fired by the club several times, spoke proudly of his team.
“Our second half performance when a man short was tremendous,” he said. “Several players were on yellow cards, but did not hold back when tackling.”
Mamelodi Sundowns, runners-up to Chiefs last season, also began with a goalless away draw at Platinum Stars in north-west mining town Rustenburg.
Polokwane City, a side noted for scoring plenty of goals and conceding even more, top the table on goals scored after pipping Bloemfontein Celtic 3-2 at home.
Celtic equalised twice before Thobani Mncwango struck the match-winner 12 minutes from time.
Free State Stars, who finished last season impressively to move away from the drop zone, lost 1-0 at home to Mpumalanga Black Aces and had twice-cautioned Themba Shabalala red-carded.
Wits and promoted Golden Arrows were other first-round winners. Meanwhile SAPremiership first round results this weekend:
Chippa Utd 0 Kaizer Chiefs 0
Free State Stars 0 Mpumalanga Black Aces 1 (Jayiya 24)
Golden Arrows 1 (Ramagalela 40) Pretoria University 0
Platinum Stars 0 Mamelodi Sundowns 0
Polokwane City 3 (Maluleke 7, Shiba 70, Mncwango 78) Bloemfontein Celtic 2 (Morena 34, Lamola 71)
Wits 2 (Vilakazi 11 Pelembe 75) Ajax Cape Town 1 (Mobara 26)
Maritzburg Utd v Jomo Cosmos 1500 GMT
SuperSport Utd v Orlando Pirates 1730 GMT