JOHANNESBURG – The fiery Kaizer Chiefs’ coach Ernst Middendorp cut a calm figure after watching his team once again need two hours of football to get past an amateur team in the Nedbank Cup.
Amakhosi managed to save their blushes on Sunday at Nelson Mandela Bay by thumping The Magic FC 3-0 in extra-time. The score-line was very flattering to Chiefs and deceiving on the brave performance the ABC Motsepe League team put against the country’s cup kings.
Chiefs were frustrated for 90 minutes and missed a number of chances - just like they did against Tornado FC, also in the Eastern Cape - before squeezing into the next round in extra-time.
Middendorp was emphatic in his response of whether he was frustrated by how his team performed against the minnows on Sunday.
“No! No! No! When you work as a coach, your friend isn’t frustration,” Middendorp said. “There’s a very clear understanding when you’re coaching a team that you never give up. You work on it. We worked the whole week with a design on bringing our players into (goal-scoring) opportunities like we did.
It could have looked a little bit better, but you cannot produce the same scenario at training (like you would in a match) where fans are expecting a positive result. We know that certain players in terms of finishing can do better. But for me, I wasn’t frustrated. I don’t think that frustration is something that coaches should work with.”
Khama Billiat came from the bench and changed the game. He was fouled in the box for the first goal, had a hand in the second and scored the third. It was a big performance for the Zimbabwean talisman who has been struggling for form. But Chiefs won’t be bothered too much by how the result came.
At the end of the day they left Port Elizabeth with their name in the hat for the quarterfinal draw that will be conducted on Thursday. It’s a step in the right direction, towards ending what could be a four-season long barren run for the most successful team in the country. Should they finish this season without a trophy, it would be an anomaly for the team that has won every domestic competition a record number of times.
Middendorp was brought in in December to ensure that doesn’t happen by stopping the rot that started under coach Steve Komphela and continued under the bumbling Giovanni Solinas, whose tenure lasted less than five months.
The coach has brought some structure and stability at the club, but Chiefs are still not ruthless in front of goals. The Soweto giants struggle to beat opponents who are there for the taking. Stronger teams than ABC Motsepe League sides, like Mamelodi Sundowns and Cape Town City, have punished them for that.
“It was our obligation to qualify for the next round,” Middendorp, “We have done it. I would label our performance as (good) management against deep-sitting, defensive opponents.
“I would obviously compliment them keeping the score-line 0-0 after 90 minutes. I think that’s definitely an achievement for Magic. However, our biggest opponent wasn’t Magic FC.
“Our biggest opponent was ourselves, in terms of pressuring the opponents and producing enough opportunities. But we made it difficult for ourselves. The execution of the opportunities could have been better.
“But good (we got the result). We again needed 120 minutes, but the result is there, what we said we wanted. Let’s wait for Thursday.”