Former Bulgaria FIFA World Cup™ star Hristo Stoichkov made a winning start as a South African Premiership coach when Mamelodi Sundowns defeated Mpumalanga Black Aces 2-0 this weekend. The joint leading scorer at the 1994 FIFA World Cup took over the expensively assembled but underachieving Pretoria club during the close season after unsuccessful spells as coach of his country and Spanish club Celta Vigo.
Stoichkov was indebted to South Africa striker Katlego Mphela for his perfect start in the opening round of the 2009/2010 championship campaign. Shunned during the FIFA Confederations Cup South Africa 2009 until the third place play-off with Spain, Mphela came off the bench during the second half to score twice against Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas. His second goal deep in stoppage time was among the best of the South Africa 2010 dress rehearsal as he unleashed a free-kick from well outside the penalty area that flew into the net.
Mphela demonstrated that set-piece prowess again at home against promoted Aces with an early goal off a free-kick that eluded the wall and beat goalkeeper Nascent Nkhwashu at his near post. New signings Mabhuti Khenyeza and Papi Zothwane were the chief culprits as Sundowns squandered chances before Mphela struck his second goal three minutes from full-time. The two-goal triumph was enough to lift Sundowns to the top of the table on goal difference from Orlando Pirates, the only other winners on a weekend which delivered six draws, three of them goalless.
Another FIFA Confederations Cup squad member, midfield enforcer Benson Mhlongo, was the 'Buccaneers' hero away to Ajax Cape Town as he headed the lone goal four minutes into the second half. A deep cross caught previously superior Ajax off guard and Mhlongo timed his far-post run perfectly to head across former South Africa goalkeeper Hans Vonk into the net.
Nigerian Prince Olomu scored twice for Bloemfontein Celtic and Brazilian Eder Richartz once for Free State Stars in a 2-2 draw while AmaZulu came from behind twice against Wits University in another four-goal stalemate.
Pretoria club SuperSport United launched their bid for a third consecutive title by drawing 1-1 at Maritzburg United, who dodged relegation on the final day of last season. Defender Morgan Gould was the United hero and villain, heading in a Daine Klate free-kick midway through the opening half, only to concede a late first-half penalty that Zambian Noah Chivuta converted.