Lucky Kaizer Chiefs avoid joining South African Cup casualty list

Famed Kaizer Chiefs narrowly avoided joining the casualty list Sunday in a shock-riddled South African FA Cup round of 32.

The Soweto club, who have won more trophies than any rivals in the republic, needed an own-goal and an incorrect refereeing decision to pip third-tier Tornado 1-0 near East London.

Attempting to steer a cross from Colombian Leonardo Castro away from danger on 94 minutes, defender Abongile Twani diverted the ball over his goalkeeper Khanya Mini and into the net.

Soon after, a Tornado attacker was tripped in the box, but penalty appeals were dismissed because the referee wrongly ruled that the player had been offside prior to the foul.

Victory enabled the Amakhosi (Chiefs) to avoid exiting the competition in the first round -- a fate that has befallen seven of the 16 top-flight clubs so far.

Casualties include CAF Champions League contenders Mamelodi Sundowns and Orlando Pirates, FA Cup trophy-holders Free State Stars and the side they beat in the final, Maritzburg United.

Chiefs' 53 trophies since the club was formed in 1970 -- an average of more than one a season -- seems a distant memory to many of their increasingly frustrated supporters.

They last claimed silverware 44 months ago, winning the Premiership, and this season took an unusual step for the club by firing a coach after just a few months in charge.

Italian Giovanni Solinas got the axe having failed to win two cup competitions and German Ernst Middendorp replaced him for a second spell in charge.

- Undistinguished -

Middendorp, an unpopular choice among supporters after an undistinguished first spell with Chiefs a decade ago, admits he must end the trophy drought quickly to survive.

His first attempt failed as Chiefs made a tame exit from the CAF Confederation Cup last weekend after home and away play-off losses to Zambian outfit Zesco United.

That leaves two targets -- the FA Cup and the Premiership, where fifth-place Chiefs trail leaders Bidvest Wits by seven points with 12 rounds remaining.

The Cup offers a likelier route to success for the Soweto outfit, especially with fellow major crowd-pullers Pirates and Sundowns falling by the wayside Saturday.

Speaking after squeezing past Tornado, Middendorp said: "Our passing and shooting in the final third was disappointing. We had an obligation to win and that is a source of joy."

A disastrous run by Maritzburg, FA Cup runners-up and fourth in the league last season, continued when they bowed out at second division strugglers Witbank Spurs.

Witbank led twice in a thriller that finished 2-2 after extra time and they won 5-4 on penalties after Rushine de Reuck and Miguel Timm fluffed spot-kicks for United.

Spurs recently hired Ephraim 'Shakes' Mashaba, who was fired as national coach two years ago after publicly criticising national football association president Danny Jordaan.

Top-flight Bloemfontein Celtic left it late to win 2-1 at second-division Super Eagles with Rendani Ndou scoring two minutes from time in central town Bethlehem.

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