Dan Malesela made a winning start to his reign as Royal AM edged Kaizer Chiefs 1-0 in their DStv Premiership opener at Chatsworth Stadium on Saturday evening.
The goal arrived in the opening minute of the match when Ricardo Nascimento capitalised on slack defending from Amakhosi to pounce from close range and put three points on the board for the KZN outfit.
Arthur Zwane’s troops had chances to get back into the contest, but a lack of killer instinct in the final third meant they kicked off the new campaign with a loss.
The Glamour Boys will be looking to challenge for league honours after a disappointing 2021/22 campaign, where they finished well off the pace in fifth place to miss out on continental football.
Thwihli Thwahla, meanwhile, enjoyed a stellar debut in the top flight and came so close to qualifying for the CAF Champions League before they fell away in the final few weeks to finish third.
The hosts couldn’t have asked for a better start in Durban as they hit the front in the opening minute of the game.
Chiefs failed to deal with a corner and Nascimento made them pay when he slotted home from close range to get Malesela’s side up and running.
The Soweto giants looked to respond, with Khama Billiat springing a counter in the 12th minute and finding Keagan Dolly, who forced a save out of Patrick Nyame with a strike from range.
Billiat then tested Nyame with a shot on the turn three minutes later and the Cameroonian goalkeeper survived a scare midway through the first half when he spilt Ashley Du Preez’s effort and saw a teammate clear the ball off the line on the follow-up.
Royal AM would threaten again on the half-hour mark as Andre de Jong drew a superb save from Bruce Bvuma inside the area and Chiefs breathed a sigh of relief six minutes later when Mxolisi Macuphu mis-hit his shot wide of the left post after pouncing on a square pass at the back.
There were a couple of wayward efforts at both ends in the opening stages of the second half, with Yusuf Maart’s long-range strike clearing the crossbar before De Jong and Khetukuthula Ndlovu failed to trouble Bvuma in the opposition goal with their respective shots.
Siyethemba Sithebe did manage to test Nyame from inside the box after being picked out by Nkosingiphile Ngcobo in the 67th minute, while Bvuma was alert to the danger when Tebogo Potsane’s header found Nascimento in the 18-yard area on 70 minutes.
Dolly was presented with two chances to rescue something for Chiefs in the closing stages, but he failed to convert Billiat’s 74th-minute corner at close range and missed the target once more in stoppage time after receiving the ball outside the box from Reeve Frosler.
Royal AM (1) 1 (Nascimento 1′)
Kaizer Chiefs (0) 0
Royal AM: P. Nyame, M. Mogaila, R. Nascimento, L. Manganyi, T. Lingwati, K. Ndlovu (E. Pelembe 77′), S. Kobedi, K. Mahlasela (S. Msomi 46′), A. De Jong, M. Macuphu (R. Gamildien 77′), T. Potsane (P. Cele 86′).
Kaizer Chiefs: B. Bvuma, N. Blom (D. Solomons 79′), Z. Kwinika, S. Ngezana, R. Frosler, C. Alexander (Nk. Ngcobo 65′), Y. Maart, A. Du Preez, S. Sithebe, K. Dolly, K. Billiat.