Pretoria – Kaizer Chiefs coach Stuart Baxter believes his side was fortunate to come away with a goalless draw against Mamelodi Sundowns in their Premiership clash at Loftus Versfeld on Tuesday evening.
“It's one of those old clichés, a game of two halves,” Baxter said after the game.
“I was happy to go in at half-time on even terms and in the second half, I was very pleased with the response that the players gave.
“Especially the players that have just come back from the national team, because I knew they were struggling a little bit.”
The fixture was the first for either side since December 19, after the Africa Cup of Nations enforced break.
Baxter included all seven returning Bafana Bafana players in his starting line-up, while Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane started both Wayne Sandilands and striker Katlego Mphela.
The Chiefs coach said his decision to field all returning national team players was taken in order to get them back into the right mentality and he wanted to get the players focussed on their club aspirations, following the Cup of Nations tournament.
“The decision to throw all of the boys (Bafana players) in at the same time, the rationale behind it was that I didn't want to give them any sort of space for an excuse,” Baxter explained.
“I don't want to tell them that they are tired. I want to say, 'if you think you can play tonight, you can play. If you don't think you can play, then you probably can't play'.”
The point puts Chiefs in danger of relinquishing top spot, as defending champions Orlando Pirates – who take on SuperSport United on Wednesday – have the opportunity of reaching the summit of the league standings, should they claim all three points at the Orlando Stadium.
Baxter, however, said the thought had not crossed his mind.
“To be honest to myself and the players, to be working out all of the different permutations – if we win and if they lose – that's me with one eye on somewhere else,” he said.
“We've got between now and the end of the season, and if we take more points than anybody else, then we win the league.”
Meanwhile, Mosimane said the Brazilians were pleased to walk away with a point, considering that they had played the log-leaders, but would continue to move forward as they looked to get back to winning ways in the second half of the season.
“It was a good display of football,” Mosimane said.
“It's not an easy game, it was a tough game, two strong teams and you could see the experience of Kaizer Chiefs.”
Mosimane praised Amakhosi and Bafana goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune for a terrific display, ranking Khune as South Africa's number one shot-stopper.
“I think Itumeleng Khune is number one in South Africa, he is unbelievable,” Mosimane said.
“Two great saves he pulled out and he is the best...he is on top of his game.”
Mosimane said although he remained unbeaten as Sundowns coach after five fixtures, the statistic meant little if the team was not winning.
“The unbeaten story, it sounds good,” he said.
“But what's the point of getting two points out of six points? Sometimes when you lose a game, you learn from that game.
“If you ask me, over the last two games, I'd rather have lost one and won one, than two draws.”
In Tuesday's other fixtures, Free State Stars romped to a 3-0 victory over Chippa United at the Charles Mopeli Stadium, Bidvest Wits claimed a 2-0 win over Black Leopards at the Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane, while AmaZulu and Maritzburg recorded the second goalless draw of the night at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban. – Sapa