JOHANNESBURG – Giovanni Solinas, the Kaizer Chiefs coach tasked with ending the club’s three-year trophy drought, very nearly cost them another piece of silverware here on Sunday afternoon.
Perhaps a bit of folly from the Italian mentor, he underestimated opponents Black Leopards in this opening round of the Telkom Knockout by fielding what could be considered a weakened Amakhosi side to try and get them through to quarterfinals.
Instead it was a robust and determined Leopards team that took the game to Chiefs, sensing that they could take advantage of the fact that Solinas had made as many as seven changes from their previous game before the Fifa break almost three weeks ago.
Leopards took the lead 34 minutes into the game – a solo effort from Phathu Nange, who beat goalkeeper Virgil Vries at near post and gave him very little chance to make the save.
Amakhosi were on the backfoot and needed to dig deep to come from behind and eventually win this cup tie, although they would have to do it without their first team regulars.
Itumeleng Khune, Siyabonga Ngezana, Khama Billiat and Dumisani Zuma were among the players missing from the line-up, this thought to have been Solinas’ way of resting them ahead of the big Soweto Derby on Saturday.
But progress in a cup competition, especially after Chiefs failed to win the MTN8 earlier in the season, is of much more significance at this point.
The magnitude of the derby against Orlando Pirates should not be downplayed, but was it wise for Solinas to risk yet another trophy slipping through his fingers just so he could win a league match a few days later? The derby is also a mere three points isn’t it?
His blushes were saved by Hendrik Ekstein in the second half when the benefitted from an exquisite pass from Man of the Match Bernard Parker moments after the hour mark.
It was a sublime finish, an excellent first touch that gave the long ball just the right cushioning to bring it down and put it past goalkeeper King Ndlovu for the equaliser.
The encounter was very much balanced from then on and it was no surprise that it had to be decided through the lottery of penalty shoot-outs.
And there Chiefs again showed their class as they edged it 4-2, but Solinas shouldn’t have taken such aheavy gamble for the derby when the Glamour Boys are so desperate for a trophy.
Kaizer Chiefs (0) 1
Black Leopards (1) 1
Chiefs won 4-2 on penalties