When the referee blew for full time, Monageng Thaeleâ€™s pain had been erased by a gallant Extension Gunners performance.
Chiefs coach Mike Sithole’s blood pressure was rising after the title race took a nasty detour.The ambulance’s flashing lights as it whisked Thaele away to the hospital appeared an ominous warning.
Gunners mentor, Draglo Stanlojovic was his usual animated self on the touch line, and it came as no surprise when he departed for an early shower. Despite his expulsion, Gunners chose the weekend headliner to show their undoubted grit and determination.
After taking an early lead, the Gunners battled well to hang on for a precious point, a result, which might have a huge bearing on the title race. Initial Sithole was distraught, but nearly 24 hours later, it was one point gained rather than two points lost when news of Township Rollers’ first loss in Molepolole blasted through.
The Police XI win threw the title race wide open, with Chiefs moving within three points of leaders, Rollers.But everything worth writing about was expected to happen at the National Stadium, before Police XI twisted the plot on Saturday.
The Friday evening encounter at times threatened to meander into a damp squib, but was not short of tension and brilliant foot work.
As fans trooped out of the home of local football, two players had raised their hands.
Midfielder, Topo Piet ran the show like a seasoned campaigner and was the vital cog with some smashing passes. He bossed the Chiefs midfield left vulnerable by the absence of one commanding, Lesego Galenamotlhale.
Piet, an off season arrival from Nico United, showed why he was a sort after commodity with a dominant midfield display.
He was not alone in the near demolition job. Roving left back Katlego Keobake was a refreshing talent all evening, racing down the wing in the 26th minute before rolling back a sumptuous ball onto the path of bustling Pako Modikwa who cleanly deposited home.
It sent Gunners supporters into delirium. It was a dream start in the battle of colours. The black and white outfits’ recent matches have never been short of excitement.
Gunners continued to show why the underrated and often ridiculed Stanlojovic was snapped soon after leaving Chiefs with some eye-catching passing.
Their defending was equally pleasing to the eye and Wagarre Dikago was hardly troubled in between the sticks, and with a bit of precision, Gunners could have walked away with maximum points. The 1-1 draw represents an upward trajectory for a Gunners side which started the season poorly, losing 3-0 to the same opponents in the opening match back in September.
When Gunners’ post-mortem of the epic Friday duel is complete, it would reveal two casualties. Captain, Thaele had to be ferried to the hospital, while Stanjolovic was dismissed early.
It left the club’s glaring need to rope in an assistant. For Chiefs, the engine was far from warm and the frustrations were summed up when captain, Pontsho Moloi threw his hands in the air in dismay after being hauled off in the 69th minute.
But in the middle of all frustrations, Police XI or rather Rollers, provided Chiefs with an unlikely, soothing consolation after the weekend’s shock result.