Johannesburg – The “squad spirit” prevalent in the Kaizer Chiefs camp could prove to be one of the decisive factors in Amakhosi’s quest for the league championship proving successful.
Having just watched his team stage a remarkable come-from-behind 2-1 win over Free State Stars at the FNB Stadium on Saturday night, Stuart Baxter lauded his side for their “good attitude”.
“I was very delighted with the players’ attitude,” the Chiefs coach said during the post-match conference.
“The way the squad has come to the party is very impressive. I put Josta (Dladla) in the stands today, no grumble and Major (Lehlohonolo Majoro) started on the bench and no grumble also. Sthe (Sthembiso Ngcobo) came on (as a substitute) and his attitude was very good. The players are not complaining and this is a sign we have a good team spirit in the squad.”
As he continues to take it one match at a time in his attempt to lead Chiefs to “Reclaiming the Glory”, Baxter was pleased to have taken Amakhosi back to the summit of the Absa Premiership with this victory after they were deposed by Orlando Pirates midweek.
But the Englishman is experienced enough not to get carried away by it all.
“Top of the table means for one second we’re successful,” he reasoned. “But what’s important is where you are at the end. We’ll be delighted if we are in with a chance when the last game comes.”
On the strength of Saturday’s win, it is hard not to see Amakhosi fighting all the way for their first championship since 2005.
Playing particularly poorly in the first half, Chiefs came from the break a changed side and attacked Stars with purpose. It was the fact they did not drop their heads when the visitors took the lead via Fikru Lemasse’s pearl of a goal (the Ethiopian controlled a pass and struck a sweet shot on the turn to beat Itumeleng Khune) that impressed most.
Chiefs scored two goals from set-pieces to grab maximum points, the victory coming courtesy of what both Baxter and his Stars counterpart Steve Komphela agreed was Amakhosi’s ability to “take advantage of the situation during critical phases”.
“Stuart killed me with exactly what he had taught me,” Komphela said of the man he served as an assistant when the Brit was South Africa’s national coach. “He was reminding me at the end that there are critical phases in the match where you need your players to have mental strength. And we did not have that.”
Incredibly, both goals had some element of luck about them. The first was actually an own goal by goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene. Reneilwe Letsholonyane’s header following a free-kick ricocheted off the woodwork and then bounced on the back of Mweene’s head into goal.
Bernard Parker scored the winner with a peach of a free-kick from the edge of the box, slotting in at the top left corner of Mweene’s goal. But it was touch and go whether Chiefs should have got the set piece, the tackle that led to it having looked clean.
In the end, though, it was Baxter punching the air with joy, the Amakhosi coach delighted that his squad have the fighting spirit necessary to win the league championship. – The Star