JOHANNESBURG – Kaizer Chiefs coach Giovanni Solinas risked ridicule on Tuesday night by making seven changes to his line-up away to Free State Stars, but came off a tactical genius when Amakhosi brushed Ea Lla Koto aside with two first half goals.
He was expected to stick with the same team that thrashed Cape Town City 4-1 three days earlier - a side that included debutant Lebogang Manyama and Dumisani Zuma among several others who sat out the trip to Bethlehem.
Solinas, however, took a gamble and opted to rotate and insisted in his television interview prior to kick-off that the aim was still to get all three points.
It took a while to sink in for Chiefs supporters, who were annoyed by the drastic changes. But many of them were soon showering the coach with praise by full time.
“I must repeat that it wasn’t easy to come here and win. It’s difficult to come to Goble Park and be able to get a victory. But I am extremely happy with this,” the Italian reacted to the Glamour Boys’ 2-0 win thanks to goals from Gustavo Paez and Philani Zulu.
“I wanted to refresh the team because we have another important match on Saturday (at home against AmaZulu). So it was important to give everyone an opportunity and I am glad all of them played very well.”
It was natural that Solinas would have been expected to continue with something close to the same starting line-up away to City, with striker Leonardo Castro the only forced change after he suffered an injury in that match.
The win over Benni McCarthy’s men was his first in the Absa Premiership since taking charge at Chiefs this season - the coach’s only other win coming in the MTN8, coincidentally against the same Stars outfit.
Now that he’s fielded two different line-ups, Solinas is confident that his players are beginning to understand his methods.
“Me… I like this passing game. What about you? I like it,” he said to journalists. “I think the players are getting my philosophy and the manner in which I want to play. I am happy with this performance, but it also means we have to keep improving.”
His counterpart Luc Eymael on the other hand had to field questions regarding his future at Stars following a poor start.
Ea Lla Koto have lost four of their six league matches and are currently second from bottom, just two points above Maritzburg United, who have two games in hand.
“I have got the balls to keep going until the end, you know me,” Eymael, who guided the club to an incredible sixth place finish and a Nedbank Cup title last season, said.
“I have not become a bad coach overnight. I brought a trophy here for the first time in 24 years. I will keep looking for solutions because I don’t run away,” said the Belgian tactician.