Stuart Baxter is looking for Kaizer Chiefs to conjure up their own ‘Miracle of Istanbul’ as they seek to overturn a three-goal deficit to qualify for the group stages of the CAF Champions League.
Amakhosi face a daunting prospect at FNB Stadium (kick-off 7pm), following a minor disaster against AS Vita of the DR Congo, as they collapsed to a 3-0 defeat in Kinshasa in the first leg of the Champions League’s final qualifying round.
It left Chiefs with a mountain to climb in the return game, but Baxter is preaching positives. The Amakhosi coach this week pointed to that famous victory for Liverpool over AC Milan in the 2005 Champions League final in Istanbul, where the Reds came back from 3-0 down at half-time to beat AC Milan on penalties.
“Three-nil at half-time in the Liverpool-AC Milan game looked even more insurmountable, but people can do it,” said Baxter.
“We can’t give away another goal, then the tie is over. But we created chances in the first game and we hope we will create chances in the second.
“If we can get a goal early doors, then play normally, and get a second with 20 minutes to go, we will have the momentum, they will be nervous and it could be on.
“It will not be easy, not at all, but … if the players understand (the situation) properly we can upset them.”
Baxter is hoping Chiefs fans come in their numbers tomorrow to support the team, citing the intimidating atmosphere Chiefs felt when they were in Kinshasa on Sunday.
“When I was in the Congo with the national team, the stadium took 95000 people and there were 115000 in there; there were people sitting on the roof.
“This game (against AS Vita) was very similar, it was packed, it was noisy, aggressive and intimidating. I’d love to say that this, that the pitch and that the referee was why we lost. But we lost because we didn’t score goals and we lost momentum and concentration at vital periods of the game.
“(But) we would love to have the 12th man (on Saturday). The message to supporters is that if they want us to get through, if they can give us a bit of a hand, this is one game we need it.”
Baxter can at least go into the game with a relatively fresh squad having rested his entire first team for most of the narrow 2-1 Nedbank Cup win over FC Buffalo on Wednesday evening.
A second-string Amakhosi side still contained names like Katlego Mphela, Siyabonga Nkosi and George Lebese, but were run close by the third-tier East London outfit, needing a second-half Mandla Masango winner to see the through.
Baxter said it was “almost impossible” to include the players that were in Kinshasa in his starting line-up.
“We have played 18 games in the last two months,” he said.
“I don’t know if we understand the loading on these players, but if they were going to play Wednesday, then against the team from the Congo, then against Arrows and then against Sundowns … if I play the full team in every one of those games, I have about seven players injured. And that is not to talk about mental strain.” - The Star