Johannesburg – Winning the Soweto Derby was made all the more special following defeat to Platinum Stars just three days prior, Kaizer Chiefs coach Stuart Baxter said.
Baxter celebrated his first ever Premiership win over Orlando Pirates as Willard Katsande netted a second-half header to see out a famous 1-0 victory at FNB Stadium in Johannesburg.
“We lost against Platinum Stars. This makes the derby a massive game... the position in the league, Pirates being one of your main threats,” Baxter said after the game.
“It made it a big one. We’ve not run out a win in the derby, apart from the Carling Cup. I was fearing that the players may either choke physically or mentally.
“When you run the game out and you get the win, it feels like more points than you really have got… yes I was delighted.”
A man-of-the-match display from Katsande put the Glamour Boys ahead shortly after the hour mark when he recorded his first ever goal for Chiefs, ending a 67-game wait for the goal which proved the difference in front of a sold-out Soccer City.
Baxter admitted, however, that although the result would be celebrated, the bigger picture was that it was just another game and once the hype disappeared, Chiefs simply walked away with a win, like any other.
“All derbies, all over the world, are exactly the same. It seems like it’s more important than it really is,” the former Bafana
Bafana coach said.
“It seems like it’s seven points instead of three points and when you win it, it’s great, and when you lose it, it’s not so great.
“That’s the reality of it.”
Reeling from Wednesday’s defeat to Stars, Baxter had to do without goalkeeper and captain Itumeleng Khune, who was ruled out due to injury for a second week, leaving Reyaad Pieterse to take up the gloves for the Glamour Boys.
“Character is probably not a big issue for him,” Baxter said of his stand-in shot-stopper.
“I’ve seen very experienced players get very anxious and nervous about the derby game. We just spoke to Reyaad. It was more on the mental play.
“The back four helped him out amazingly well, especially in the second half.
“We were very pleased with him and he is a strong character and that’s what we tried to do Ä try to put him in the right frame of mind.”
Chiefs’ busy schedule does not look like letting up in the foreseeable future, having to play Premiership games while qualifying for the group stages of the Caf Champions League, before defending their Nedbank Cup title as well.
Baxter conceded that opportunities for training sessions with his team came at a premium, and although Chiefs have four “home” league games in a row coming up, the first would be played in Polokwane, which meant more travelling for the Soweto giants.
“The first home game is in Polokwane so we’re still travelling. Directly from there, 48 hours later, we have to fly to the Congo (where Chiefs play AS Vita in the Caf Champions League) and then we’re not coming back until Monday evening.
“Then 36 hours later, we play a Cup game against FC Buffalo. Whether it all goes well or not, is very much dependent on how well we can rotate the squad without creating an imbalance, how well we can recuperate the players and how disciplined the players are to make sure that they train correctly and live correctly to get through a very hectic schedule.”
Chiefs remain six points ahead of the chasing pack, led by Mamelodi Sundowns, after 21 games, with nine games left to play.- Sapa