Kaizer Chiefs have a keeper dilemma
As one of the most successful clubs in South African domestic football, one of Chiefs’ strengths lies in the quality of their goalkeeping department, dating all the way back to the days of Eshele Botende, followed by Brian Baloyi, Rowen Fernandez and Itumeleng Khune.
Khune has held the No 1 spot in the last decade but that streak was recently dented by a long-term shoulder injury late last season and groin injury early this season which subsequently kept him in the medical room more than on the field.
The 32-year-old’s unavailability this season saw his then deputy Daniel Akpeyi grab the opportunity of donning the No 1 jersey by the scruff of the neck, inspiring Chiefs to the summit of the Premiership standings with 45 points after 20 matches.
All looked promising for Akpeyi to continue holding onto the No 1 spot for the rest of the campaign, but his blunder during their 2-1 defeat to Maritzburg United at home on Saturday could have well increased the volume on the “outside noise” that Khune should regain his spot between the sticks.
Akpeyi tried to handle Pogiso Sanoka’s cross with one hand, spilling it to Thabiso Kutumela, who teed up Tebogo Tlolane, whose cross found Daylon Claasen, who made no mistake with the volley while the shot-stopper was still out in no-man’s land.
“I know it’s something that people are saying this one or that one must play. But are you really convinced that our goalkeeping coaching department are not able to see what’s going on, what’s happening and when is the right timing?” a grumpy Middendorp said.
Khune’s impressive run of form for Chiefs and Bafana Bafana in the last decade brings confidence to the supporters and his teammates as well, especially the back four.
But Akpeyi has been one of the team’s stars this season, but many Amakhosi fans will be backing Khune to return as the No 1, especially with his experience at the tail-end of the season..
“I said it in October that he (Khune) has been thrown in too early, from one week in to the other one, and what happened? He was out for three, four months again,” Middendorp argued.
“You don’t need to be a magician to see what the headlines would be tomorrow and that’s something that won’t be easy, especially for our goalkeeping department.”
Chiefs’ loss to the Team of Choice saw the gap between them and second-placed Mamelodi Sundowns, who have a game in hand, become seven points.
But Middendorp is not pressing the panic button just yet, saying all will be decided in May.
“Are we really dreaming? I said it in November, January and February, that nothing is coming to an end. I’ve said it that the championship won’t be decided in the final 10 games. It will not be decided today or in the next two, three weeks. Be strong in your approach, put yourself into it and do the best and that’s what we do,” Middendorp explained.@MihlaliBaleka