Middendorp has refuted sentiments that Kaizer Chiefs’ strength lies in set-pieces
Chiefs have been on a roll in domestic football as they sit summit of the Premiership standings with 42 points from 18 matches, where they’ve accumulated the best scoring record after netting 37 goals, while conceding just 14 - thus they have a +23-goal difference.
The Glamour Boys’ scoring spree has been inspired by marksmen Samir Nurkovic and Leonardo Castro, who’ve scored a whopping 17 goals between them so far, while a large chunk of that contribution was generated from their aerial prowess.
You see, there’s no doubt that Chiefs have reinvigorated themselves as a collective this season, where they’ve shown desire to fight until the last minute. However, it would be naive to overlook the work that’s been done by set-piece specialists George Maluleka and Lebogang Manyama.
There’s been an impressive record of 11 assists registered between Maluleka and Manyama this season in the league, while most of those came via set-pieces.
In Chiefs’ last three matches, where they’ve scored seven goals - three against Highlands Park and Cape Town City and one against Black Leopards on Saturday afternoon at Thohoyandou Stadium - four have come via dead balls.
Against Lidoda Duvha, a Nurkovic header from a Manyama corner-kick put the log leaders ahead before the home side restored parity through a Mogakolodi Ngele set-piece late in the first half.
Middendorp, though, is happy that he’s team is able to get the much-needed goals and results, saying the technical team adjusts and plans according to what the game demands of the players.
“No, we score a lot of other goals (from open play). But for the other goals, we need a pitch that is suitable for passing but you’ve seen in the first half (against Black Leopards) that it doesn’t work like you’d like them to,” he said.
“But anyway, you’ve got to accept it, Black Leopards are a member of the PSL and we have to travel and compete here.”
The Thohoyandou Stadium has been a tough place to visit for the rest of the top-flight football teams, especially those that are used to playing carpet football at home venues with larger capacities. It's difficult to go to Venda and walk-away with maximum points.
And with Amakhosi boasting the 90 000-seater FNB Stadium, which is the largest venue in Africa, as a home ground, it was going to be improbable for them to construct any decisive passes at Thohoyandou, which is a 40 000-seater.
“In the South African Premier Soccer League (PSL), it’s the toughest one (away fixture), especially if you have to play in the afternoon, compared to playing in the evening. Plus coming here with all the circumstances, is by far the toughest journey during the entire season in South Africa,” Middendorp said.
While Chiefs have had a stranglehold on some of the stronger oppositions, including Mamelodi Sundowns and Orlando Pirates, but it’s weaker opposition, such as Leopards, who’ll test their mentality of managing to hold on to the No 1 come May.
Middndorp, however, is not fazed, saying that all their opponents, particularly in the last 10 matches, will be on top of their game as they’ll be fighting for a different course - either for the championship, top-eight finish or survival.