JOHANNESBURG – Kaizer Chiefs have taken the adage “strikers win you games and defenders win you championships” too literally, which is why they will spend a third season without the Absa Premiership title.
Amakhosi further dropped ground in the league race by playing to a goalless draw with AmaZulu on Saturday night, which sees them remain in fifth place – seven points behind log-leaders Mamelodi Sundowns.
Amakhosi aren’t a defensive team, contrary to popular belief – they’re just poor upfront.
Coach Steve Komphela has defended his tactical approach of using a 3-4-3 formation that sees Chiefs defend with five when pressed – and Willard Katsande joins in to make it six.
But they also attack with the same number, which is why Komphela is sensitive to being labelled a defensive coach.
The problem is that the strikers and attack-minded players lack the necessary aggression to take the match by the scruff of the neck and push their opponents back like Chiefs have done in the past.
This lack of aggression upfront has forced the defence to work harder than they should to protect the team, as their teammates have let them down in attack.
It doesn’t help that their most creative attacker, Siphelele Ntshangase, tends to start from the bench.
Teenage Hadebe, a centreback, came close to giving Amakhosi the lead with a header that hit the post, and by the time the Zimbabwean reacted for the second ball, AmaZulu had regrouped to clear the ball.
Chiefs’ defence has carried Amakhosi this season, while their strikers have been misfiring.
Only Bloemfontein Celtic and bottom-of-the-log Platinum Stars have scored fewer goals than the Glamour Boys.
It’s a sad indictment on Chiefs and their title challenge aspirations that are hanging by a thread.
These two teams had a lot to play for. Chiefs needed a win to close the gap at the top, while a win for Usuthu would have given them breathing space from the relegation candidates.
But somehow they conspired to put up an uninspiring first half. Usuthu didn’t mind, as they looked happy to steal a point from Amakhosi.
They grew in confidence the more Chiefs didn’t play like a championship-chasing team, lacking aggression and a killer instinct upfront that ensured Usuthu had it easy at the back.
Phumlani Gumede and his central defence partner Sedate Ouro-Akoriko didn’t have much to do on a special day for the Gumedes.
Phumlani was playing at this venue for the first time, driven to emulate what his father’s brother, Sgwili, did with the Usuthu class of 1992 that beat Amakhosi here to lift the Coca-Cola Cup.
AmaZulu and Kaizer Chiefs warming up. pic.twitter.com/vNtVADzuio
A trophy might not have been on offer on Saturday night, but three points would have been as sweet in this time of the season.
Five minutes into the second half, Komphela made two offensive changes, introducing playmaker Hendrick Ekstein for defensive midfielder Wiseman Meyiwa and striker Ryan Moon, who came in for the out-of-sorts Bernard Parker
Moon brought more energy and forcefulness in the Amakhosi attack, but even with that energy, Amakhosi failed to penetrate Energy Murambadoro’s goal.
Amakhosi have once again failed to come to the party when it matters, dropping seven points in their last three matches in the final stretch of the league race.
This is where they fell off in the race in the last two seasons.
It’s these dropped points and timid attack that will deny Amakhosi the championship, making the Nedbank Cup their only realistic chance of silverware should they continue in this vein.