Johannesburg – Kaizer Chiefs boss Stuart Baxter says he is pleased to have a squad of players ready to fight for a place in his starting 11 following Amakhosi’s comfortable MTN8 victory over Mpumalanga Black Aces on Sunday.
Chiefs made light work of an under-strength Aces to safely secure their passage into the semi-finals of the top eight competition, courtesy of a 4-0 win at FNB Stadium.
“What I am pleased about is the fact that the players know they have competition. We have taken a bit of stick about not signing high-line players,” Baxter said after the game.
“I think the squad that we’ve got is competitive. Every squad can always be better and we could spend more money on different positions.
“But you’ve got to balance that with the fact that the players that I’ve got, they know what we want at Chiefs and they understand the pressure that is on the Chiefs players.”
Reneilwe Letsholonyane and Kingston Nkhatha got Baxter’s side off to a perfect start, each grabbing a goal inside five minutes to send Chiefs into the half-time break leading 2-0 and in complete control.
But it was Mandla Masango’s performance which pleased Baxter most.
Having joined in 2007, well before Baxter’s arrival, Masango struggled to make an impact and had been linked to a move away from Naturena for the past six seasons.
Masango, however, was named in Sunday’s starting line-up in the absence of stalwart Siphiwe Tshabalala and grabbed his rare opportunity in a starting role, bagging a second half brace to kill off the contest in Johannesburg.
“Mandla’s a good player. He’s got a lot of talent. We sometimes don’t manage to get him turned around enough,” Baxter said, assessing the 25-year-old midfielder.
“Today Mandla got himself turned around very much. He was turning around, having a go at people, he worked hard in his defending, his timing was good.
“Everybody knows that Mandla’s been very close to being loaned out and I said to him before the game, ‘you may have got in here through the back door a little bit, but why don’t you throw the cat amongst the pigeons and see if you can shake a few people up’.
“He did that and now he can smile and he can wait until he gets a pat on the back when we get back to training. I’m sure he’s going to be looking forward to the week’s training.”
Despite the comfortable score-line, Baxter was quick to remind his outfit that the Premiership season has yet to get underway and called for reflection in anticipation of next weekend’s league opener.
“If people look at the way we played, they’ll say we had a good game. It’s very early. One beautiful day doesn’t make a nice summer,” he said.
“There’s got to be more beautiful days coming along before I get too excited. The players approached their job properly. This is a cup tournament and you’ve got to get through.
“The players did a very professional job. If that’s throwing down a marker, maybe. But I don’t think that’s going to be in my mind. I’m just going to be getting back to work tomorrow and making sure that people keep their feet on the ground and keep on working hard.”
The Glamour Boys join Wits, Platinum Stars, and Soweto neighbours Orlando Pirates in the last four, and the quartet will know their fate later on Monday afternoon, with the semi-final draw scheduled for a midday start in Johannesburg. – Sapa