Chess master Pitso Mosimane makes all right moves to teach Kaizer Chiefs a lesson
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JOHANNESBURG - So much for the impressive defensive display that saw Kaizer Chiefs make a surprising march to their maiden CAF Champions League final.
The hitherto ‘solid defence’ that had kept a remarkable 11 clean sheets in 14 matches was made to resemble a sieve as Pitso Mosimane’s Al Ahly put three past them to hold on to their title and extend their victories in the continent’s premier club knockout competition to 10.
Out in the sparsely-populated Stade Mohamed V in Casablanca, Morocco the Red Devils of Egypt put paid to Amakhosi’s dreams of adding a star to their club crest with the consummate ease akin to taking a lolly from a baby.
Sure there was some kind of resistance from Chiefs in the initial quarter-hour of the match, Bernard Parker and Co making a match of it and even having a shot at goal via Samir Nurkovic.
But even then Ahly hardly looked bothered and when young Happy Mashiane recklessly and dangerously tackled Akram Tawfik to earn himself an early shower after the referee consulted VAR and then changed his initial yellow card to a sending off, you knew the South African dream of a continental win were dead and buried.
Perhaps Mashiane should have said his prayers prior to the match instead of going down on his knees on the red carpet en-route back to the dressing rooms.
Perhaps Chiefs should have kept Stuart Baxter out in the stands as he’d been in the semi-final clashes against Wydad Casablanca and allowed Arthur Zwane and Dillon Sheppard to lead the team.
Perhaps Chiefs should have gone more with the experienced players such as starting with previous Champions League winners Khama Billiat and Leonardo Castro than with the youngsters who were always going to find the stage a little bit too daunting.
There was a familiar feeling to the match that could so easily have been played at the FNB Stadium or Loftus Versfeld.
Albeit played in an empty stadium, there was the Motaung family in the stands ahead of kick-off – all smiles as they waved back to their players on the field as the squad lined-up and greeted them with the club’s famous peace sign.
And then Baxter, typically resplendent in a trademark suit – this time a grey one with a sky-blue shirt and the Chiefs tie – ambled on to the pitch like a peacock, though his beard and goatee looked in desperate need of a slight trim.
Contrastingly, Mosimane came in – clean-shaven and in club tracksuit pants and a tee.
A match of contrast loomed large. And as with their many clashes in the local Premiership when Mosimane was still with Sundowns - you knew that Baxter would attack from the onset with the plan to kill the match off as a contest as early as possible while his adversary would wait like a chess master to punish him.
Young Mashiane then sped matters up with that reckless and needless challenge that saw him get his marching orders. Being a man short against any of Mosimane’s teams – let alone this African champions eager to not only defend their title but add a tenth one to the continent’s club of the century – is tantamount to suicide.
And so it proved as Ahly smashed three past the hitherto unbeaten Daniel Akpeyi to hand Mosimane his third Champions League triumph and confirm his status as Africa’s most decorated coach in CAF competitions – joint on five victories with Tunisia’s Faouzi Benzarti.
Mosimane would have brought some smiles to many a South African as he wrapped his home country flag on his shoulders as he went to collect his medal from Patrice Motsepe.
It was good while it lasted for Amakhosi. But adding that star to their jersey was always a bridge too far.