Pretoria – Even though the PSL goes into recess for two weeks, Kaizer Chiefs coach Stuart Baxter’s nightmare is set to continue. With the two-week international break, there’s little Baxter can do to fix the things that did damage to Chiefs in recent matches.
The challenge is that Baxter will be minus a number of his players, who will be on national duty.
The Englishman will not have time to address the frailties that saw Chiefs lose two and draw one in their last three matches.
Baxter says the break, which will leave him without Bafana Bafana players and their Zimbabwean counterparts, is a nightmare.
“It doesn’t give me time to do anything because half of our players will be gone. It’s a nightmare for me. We have a lot of things we want to work on. Initially it was five to six players and the Zimbabwe boys. Now it’s about three to four players. They come back three days before we play Maritzburg United.
“The break for us is not a good one. We would like to do the work with the whole squad,” he said.
Baxter watched in horror as his men suffered a 3-1 loss at the hands of ruthless SuperSport United at the weekend.
Though Chiefs took the lead and were in charge in the opening half, things fell apart with the men from Naturena allowed Matsatsantsa a Pitori to mount an emphatic comeback.
Goals by Enocent Mkhabela, Bennet Chenene and Bradley Grobler cancelled Bernard Parker’s opener to keep SuperSport at the top of the PSL table.
“I was pleased with the way we played in the first half. It should have been easier for us to deal with their flank play because that is one of the reasons we played with aggressive wing backs. We played very well in the first half.
“The second half we switched off and we allowed SuperSport to take the game back. They took it and once they started moving the ball too many of our players lost the shape we had in the first half.
“I am not happy. Basically 15 minutes of sloppy football allowed them to get back into the game. They took it and the hill was too big for us to climb. We have to solve that problem very quickly,” said the former Bafana Bafana coach, whose side is in position six with four points.
Though Baxter deployed five defenders – Morgan Gould, Erick Matoho and Tefu Mashamaite with Siboniso Gaxa and Tsepo Masilela as attacking wingbacks – it was the SuperSport wingmen, Thuso Phala and Chenene, who caused all the trouble for Chiefs.
Elated SuperSport coach Cavin Johnson says the wingers proved to make the difference.
“The first half was theirs. They played very good football and they got the goal. We weren’t moving correctly but in the second half we took the game to Chiefs. We got the goals and I thought our wing play was better in the second half,” said Johnson. And better they were as Chiefs battled to force their way back into the match.
Johnson and his men are sitting pretty at the summit of the Absa Premiership with nine points.
Their impressive start to this season has reinforced their title credentials as they are seen as strong contenders to walk away with the PSL championship. Johnson says they also have shortcomings that need attention.
“We cannot start the second half like we did against Chiefs and Tuks (University of Pretoria). It’s a work in progress and going back to the drawing board. Even though we won by three goals, there’s a lot that we can fix in the team,” said the former Platinum Stars coach.
Their recent slump has raised questions about Amakhosi’s ability to defend their title successfully this season. With SuperSport and other teams stepping up, Baxter expects the league to be fierce this season.
“The top of the table is going to be a little bit tighter and a lot more teams will be beating each other. You have got to be consistent.
“For our part, we should not be thinking in terms of where is the threat is coming from. The biggest threat is what we do. We have to first deal with the success of last season and make sure that we are still focused and disciplined over 90 minutes. After that we can look at where the threat is coming from.
“At the moment, we have the threat of good opponents in SuperSport and the threat of allowing them to get back into the game. I we can handle all the trouble,” said the Englishman, adding that hard work will see Chiefs bounce back.
“How do you get back on track? I can’t buy that in a bottle. It’s something that comes from hard work. We have to work hard and look at ourselves. The technical team staff have to work a lot harder and we will get back on track that way. There's no easy fix.”
Johnson will also have to make do without a few of his players who have been called up for national duty. “It’s a plus and a minus.
“I have a few players out of the team. You don’t want the break so long at the beginning of the season. To work with half your team and try to get them to gel together some-times does give you problems and sometimes it helps because some of your players can get back from injury,” said Johnson.
The next assignment for Chiefs is a league encounter against Maritzburg United at FNB Stadium on September 14.
SuperSport will visit Mpumalanga Black Aces at Kees Taljaard Stadium the on September 15.