Serb Nurkovic strikes twice to give Kaizer Chiefs five-point lead

Johannesburg (AFP) –


Serb Samir Nurkovic returned from injury to score the goals that gave leaders Kaizer Chiefs a 2-0 South African Premiership triumph over second-place Mamelodi Sundowns Sunday.

The 27-year-old forward who joined the Soweto side this year after spells with eight Slovak clubs broke the deadlock after only seven minutes and sealed success 12 minutes from time.

Winning before a sell-out 50,000 crowd in Pretoria stretched Chiefs' league lead to five points after nine rounds, although defending champions Sundowns do have one match in hand.

Nurkovic, who had been sidelined by a head injury, chested the ball into the net from close range to put Chiefs ahead and later slammed a loose ball past goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene.

"Today was my day and I am grateful," said the east European, whose predatory instincts have kept another close-season signing, Zambian forward Lazarous Kambole, out of the side.

"I have endured three very difficult weeks because of the head injury and it is great to be back and doing my job, which is to score goals.

"However, I never want to be accused of selfishness. If a teammate is in a better position than me to score, I will pass the ball to him," he stressed.

"I dedicate this victory to the wonderful Chiefs supporters, who travelled to Pretoria in tens of thousands to cheer us on."

- Spectators arrive late -

The late arrival of many spectators at Loftus Versfeld -- a ground Sundowns share with Super Rugby club Northern Bulls -- meant the kick-off was put back 15 minutes.

Unlike most African countries, where supporters fill stadiums hours before the kick-off, South African football fans are notorious for arriving late and forcing matches to be delayed.

Chiefs' German coach Ernst Middendorp urged caution as the club hunt a first trophy since winning the 2014/2015 Premiership under English handler Stuart Baxter.

"We are getting used to winning league matches this season," he said, referring to seven victories in nine outings since the championship kicked off two months ago.

"But we have 21 more fixtures to play so it is crucial that all of us -- players, coaches, technical staff, management and supporters -- keep our feet firmly on the ground."

Asked what had changed a team that finished a humiliating ninth last season into league pacesetters, Middendorp said greater squad depth was a major factor.

"We have competition for places throughout the squad and that is vital. It is one of the reasons why Sundowns have been so successful at home and in Africa in recent years.

"Our first choice goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune, one of the best in Africa if not the best in my opinion, is injured and Nigerian Daniel Akpeyi is proving a great replacement."