London – Stuart Baxter tasted his first Premier League defeat of the season on Saturday, yet the Kaizer Chiefs coach admitted he could have no complaints about his team surrendering their unbeaten record to Platinum Stars.
Amakhosi were sunk by goals from Henrico Botes and Mogakolodi Ngele to lose a league match for the first time since April, and Baxter did not try afterwards to hide his team’s flaws, which were cruelly exposed by Stars.
“We didn’t deserve to win. Platinum Stars did and we congratulate them,” the Chiefs coach said.
Conceding his men were “very poor” in a chaotic first-half in which they allowed Dikwena to take charge of the game, Baxter said panic had crept into his side once Botes had scored after the quarter-hour mark.
“We knew it would be difficult coming here. But we were very poor in the first-half.
“For some reason my players stood off and didn’t play.
“We were way off the mark. We panicked a bit once we fell behind.”
Chiefs’ game plan was thrown into disarray when Baxter was forced to make two changes to his line-up. Reneilwe Letsholonyane – who had scored a brace in the 3-2 win over Moroka Swallows in midweek – was suspended and Mulomowandau Mathoho picked up a hamstring injury on the eve of the match.
In their places, Baxter threw in Siyabonga Nkosi and Lincoln Zvasiya, but neither could be proud of his performance, with Nkosi in particular enduring a nightmarish afternoon in which he was constantly harangued by the fans before being substituted at half-time.
“The players’ reaction was great in the second-half. But having given ourselves a 2-0 hill to climb, it was always going to be difficult to come back. Yet we did manage to close off some spaces and restrict Stars in the second-half.”
Stars, meanwhile, enjoyed a sixth win in seven outings to remain among the surprise title frontrunners. Coach Cavin Johnson, who was handed the reins towards the end of last season, has assembled what surely is one of the more competent Absa Premiership sides.
Benson Mhlongo, in particular, was outstanding for the Phokeng side, while Ngele scored a memorable goal which ended Chiefs’ resistance after just 25 minutes.
“It is always big pressure playing against Chiefs, who have again been the best side so far this season,” Johnson said.
“But we planned well. We knew we had to focus on certain players.
“After the first-half we knew we had to be strong in the second period. We defended well, and that’s what you have to do against a team like Chiefs.”
Having seen his team’s lead at the top shrink to just one point, Baxter challenged his players to raise their game in the next two fixtures – against Ajax Cape Town and Orlando Pirates next week.
“We have a bit of time to work on our mistakes,” Baxter said.
“The Pirates game is special, and we’ll have to prepare well for it. But before that we have Ajax and I’d love to have my best possible team for both those games.”
Platinum Stars’ next game is a trip on December 4 to Maritzburg United, another club who have surprised by staking a claim to the title.
Maritzburg shocked Moroka Swallows on Saturday, winning 3-1 at Dobsonville.
Also on Saturday, there were away wins for Free State Stars and Black Leopards at AmaZulu and AmaTuks respectively. – The Star