In the end, Kaizer Chiefs coach Steve Komphela opted to start Bernard Parker alone upfront instead of partnership him up with Gustavo Paez and sacrificing a midfielder against Bloemfontein Celtic at the Dr Petrus Molemela Stadium on Wednesday night.
The plan didn’t necessarily backfire, nor did it work spectacularly.
Only when they were once again both on the pitch later in the second half – Paez coming off the bench to replace Edmore Chirambadare – did Amakhosi secure a 2-0 victory as the Venezuelan forward struck again and gave his coach another poser.
Parker had twice turned provider for Paez in their narrow Nedbank Cup last-16 win over Acornbush United on Sunday afternoon in Nelspruit.
Komphela admitted he was tempted to start both in the coming games, earmarking this league clash away to Celtic as one he could possibly use to test the new combination.
He instead chose to bring the weekend’s two-goal hero off the bench again and the striker delivered, adding Chiefs’ second just after the hour mark following midfielder George Maluleka’s opener in the 12th minute.
With this victory, Absa Premiership title chasers Chiefs stretched their unbeaten run in the league to 11 matches and moved to second place, behind leaders Bidvest Wits, on Wednesday night.
On a hard surface that stifled both teams from wowing the capacity crowd at the Dr Petrus Molemela Stadium, Amakhosi kept their focus through the game to protect their early lead.
The opportunities for the two sides were limited when Paez came on, although Celtic goalkeeper Patrick Tignyemb had a little more to do than his counterpart Itumeleng Khune, who was sharp whenever he, too, was called on to make the odd save.
But Amakhosi won’t complain much. They are keeping up with the chasing pack and will feel – with just seven games remaining on their fixture schedule – they will be among the challengers when the championship race goes right down to the wire.
Chiefs were far from clinical, but when the clear-cut chances presented themselves, Maluleka sweetly struck low shot easily beat Tignyemb, while Paez’s finish was also quite well-taken.
January recruit Paez might be an automatic choice for Komphela on Saturday against Chippa United after Parker was yellow-carded for time-wasting when he was substituted late in the game, with the points already firmly in the bag.
In contrast, Celtic have to fight another day for three points to move away from the danger zone as defeat dragged them further into the relegation dogfight with only three points separating them from bottom-of-the-log Highlands Park, who lost to Ajax Cape Town on Wednesday night.
The hosts were still without their new coach in the dugout as Luc Eymael’s case at the PSL Dispute Resolution Chamber is yet to be resolved.
The Belgian is not registered by league to coach Celtic because his old club Polokwane City are demanding compensation after he resigned abruptly last month to take up the Celtic job two days later.