CAN Chippa United step up one last time in 2012?
The Chilli Boys have had a great year, firstly gaining promotion to the PSL and recently holding their own against the likes of league champions Orlando Pirates.
Obviously, like all great Cinderella stories, there have been some speedbumps along the way, especially in their debut season in the top flight. But, after a bad start in the league, there has been a willingness to fight, and they have shown great resilience under new coach Farouk Abrahams.
But tonight they face a Mamelodi Sundowns team who are looking to take a few positives out of what has been a disastrous year and first half of the current campaign.
At one stage, the Brazillians were rooted to the bottom of the league, and were looking up at everybody’s backsides. But these days, they have South Africa’s top striker back in the mix from injury, and it’s no surprise that Katlego Mphela’s two goals in as many matches have propelled Sundowns back up the standings.
On paper, Sundowns certainly have more quality than Chippa, and this clash is as David and Goliath as they come. But football isn’t played on a piece of paper, it is played on grass.
And this is the sort of match that Chippa relish. It’s another opportunity for them to step up, to show they belong.
And one player who epitomises all that fighting spirit is central midfielder Larry Cohen, who’s entry into the team has coincided with a slight change of fortune under Abrahams’s tutelage.
Cohen is no Lionel Messi, but his work in front of the Chippa back four has been massive over the last few months. He reads the game well, and is also very good in the tackle and in breaking up attacks.
It’s not the most glamorous role in football, but it’s certainly one of the most important. He also has a canon for a right foot, and scored a cracker from 30 yards out in a victory over Platinum Stars earlier this season.
“I enjoy the role, and as long as the team is doing well, and I can do my part, I’m happy doing it,” Cohen told the Cape Times yesterday.
“I have always been a player who believes in hard work, so I’m enjoying that role very much.”
Tomorrow, he and his teammates will have to work even harder in the midfield when they come up against the likes of Teko Modise, who will look to control the pace of the game and feed the dangerous Mphela.
Unfortunately Chippa’s own midfield maestro Brent Carelse is not available for the encounter, which is a massive blow for their already under-fire attacking play.
But Cohen believes they can up their game yet again, as they did against Pirates a few weeks ago.
“Sundowns are a big team, and we respect them. But we don’t fear them, and the way we have been playing, we can cause an upset,” the former Jomo Cosmos man said.
“We just need to close them down, not allow them to play. They can have the ball in their half, but as soon as they get in to our half, we have to close them down and press them. If you don’t let them play, you make it difficult for them.
“We have been playing good football over the last couple of games, but need to take our chances and that will be it.”
WEEK’S PSL FIXTURES
(All matches 7.30pm kickoff)
Tonight: Moroka Swallows v Platinum Stars (Dobsonville Stadium), SuperSport United v Ajax Cape Town (Peter Mokaba Stadium), Golden Arrows v Orlando Pirates (Moses Mabhida Stadium), Bloemfontein Celtic v Black Leopards (Free State Stadium), Wits v Free State Stars (Bidvest Stadium), Chippa United v Mamelodi Sundowns (Athlone Stadium).