How Kaizer Chiefs blew it ... predictable Amakhosi attack wasn’t flexible enough
JOHANNESBURG - Kaizer Chiefs’ lacklustre demeanour in being a “one-man” or “route-route team” may very well have been at the core of their disappointing failure to wrap up the Premiership title this season.
For 379 days, Amakhosi cut a lonely figure at the summit of the Premiership, falsely imagining what it would feel like to win the league title and end the trophy drought that has haunted the club for the past five seasons.
While they let their imagination run wild, they forgot that they were in uncharted territory and had to ensure that they had a Plan B, should Plan A not work out.
And such negligence, at the end, cost them dearly as Mamelodi Sundowns capitalised at the 11th hour to pip them at the post for the crown.
The Brazilians, who had been second all season long, won their record 10th Premiership title on the last day of the season with 59 points, thanks to the 3-0 win over Black Leopards on Saturday.
Chiefs, on the other hand, were left scratching their heads, asking: “How did it go wrong?”
But many of their answers were provided by the 1-1 draw with Baroka FC on Saturday, which ensured that they finished second with 57 points, even though it was enough to qualify them for the Caf Champions League next season.
Granted that they went into the break at the summit of the standings after a 1-0 lead thanks to a Khama Billiat goal, but the fact that they failed to defend that slender margin against a team fighting for their lives proved to be a disaster.
Baroka equalised and got the all-important goal that ensured safety and, from then on, parked the bus.
Chiefs were then caught all over the place as they had to adjust to an unfamiliar philosophy of finding and creating open spaces.
After all, they are used to scoring the all-important goals from set-pieces.
This is a method that coach Ernst Middendorp defended, saying that “even teams in the Uefa Champions League use this type of football system when they want to win matches”.
And granted that worked for Chiefs earlier on in the season. But when they noticed that it was not as efficient as first, as opposing teams had also figured it out, why didn’t they change the script since the restart?
Well, it might also have been difficult to flip the manual pages, considering that striker Samir Nurkovic was worn out from being the team’s main man later in the season, while partner Leonardo Castro was out injured and Billiat took forever to warm-up to his best.
Nurkovic has had a wonderful maiden season with Chiefs, and it wouldn’t be surprising that his name is also thrown into the bucket for the Player of the Season nominees, but his discipline and game management hasn’t helped his or his team’s cause either.
The Serbian found himself suspended for some crucial matches, and coach Middendorp was left scratching his head over his replacement, as Lazarous Kambole has also battled to find his feet at the club all season long.