Kaizer Chiefs coach Ernst Middendorp has praised his team’s fighting qualities in coming back from 2-1 down to beat Highlands Park 3-2 on Sunday.
The Amakhosi extended their proud record of being the club with the most wins on the opening day of the Premiership season since 1996/97 to 15 at the Makhulong Stadium in Tembisa.
Lebogang Manyama grabbed the first Chiefs goal with a header from a cross by new signing Kearyn Baccus after just four minutes.
Highlands striker Rodney Ramagalela equalised after the 20-minute mark, and Peter Shalulile put the Lions of the North ahead early in the second half.
But Manyama struck back soon afterwards to make it 2-2, and defender Mulomowandau Mathoho scored the winner with a deflection in the final 10 minutes.
Middendorp felt that the return from injury of double-goal hero Manyama, as well as Mathoho – both of whom missed large chunks of last season – made a big difference in front of a boisterous Tembisa crowd.
“We played with several players that we missed last season. Manyama and Mathoho both scored, and if you recall, these are some of the players that were affected by an assortment of injuries last season,” Middendorp told the Chiefs website on Monday.
“Furthermore, if you check the introduction of the new players, it shows that we were completely a different team today.
“We still had Happy Mashiane, George Maluleka and Ramahlwe Mphahlele starting from the bench.
“I am particularly happy with the debutants. They all showed glimpses of what we should expect as soon as they gel and get to know each other very well.
“Even when we were a goal down, you could feel the positive energy flowing from the stands.
“I thought the supporters brought their side of the bargain. It was fantastic to see the atmosphere, the kind of support and positive energy. The supporters deserve to know that we really appreciate their role in the team.”
Another new face to impress was Samir Nurkovic, who along with Baccus proved that they can become influential figures for the Amakhosi this season.
Chiefs will next be in action on Saturday, when they take on Black Leopards in a home match at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban (8.15pm kickoff).
Middendorp will hope that his team can shore up their defence after conceding two goals against Highlands.
“We had some moments of jitters at the back, but recovered, and became solid with the progress of the game. We will work on that,” he said.