Itumeleng Khune of Kaizer Chiefs got injured against Baroka FC. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix
Ersnt Middendorp begrudgingly started Itumeleng Khune against Baroka FC on Saturday because he knew that if he dropped the Kaizer Chiefs captain, there would be trouble from the club’s supporters.

Khune made his long-awaited return on Tuesday last week against AmaZulu after spending nine months on the side-lines nursing a shoulder injury. Before the clash with AmaZulu, Khune had last played for Chiefs on December 1. Middendorp gave him his second start in the 1-0 win over Bakgaga but Khune picked up an injury that led to his substitution. The German regretted the decision.

“I really could hit myself,” Middendorp said. “I am aware about it. If I do what I had in my head they would have chased me out of the stadium before we start the game. The fact is, a player like Itumeleng Khune hasn’t played for eight months. We used him against AmaZulu and it was a very intensive game for him. Three and a half days later, he was on the field. He shouldn’t have been on the field. Under normal circumstances, we should have started this match with Daniel Akpeyi. I was aware about it. I made it very clear myself, but I didn’t want to be chased out of the stadium.”

Middendorp continued: “There are moments where you have to make a decision that you know is not right. You know that Itu Khune three and a half days later cannot work. You are in a risky situation, but you have to decide. I decided to let him play and I lost the player for probably one or two weeks. But I am happy to have two good goalkeepers.”

Akpeyi did a good job in helping Chiefs keep another clean sheet. The win helped them keep their place at the top of the Absa Premiership standings with 16 points from seven matches.

“I believe that we have a target and we can do better. There’s no doubt about it. I said it before the game. There is a lot of space for improvement,” Middendorp said.

The Nigerian goalkeeper will retain his place against Golden Arrows tomorrow at FNB Stadium. The person whose place is uncertain in the starting line-up is Lazarous Kambole. The Zambian striker has had an underwhelming start to his time at Chiefs, missing easy goals that have frustrated the club’s supporters. But the German fully backs the striker.

“Kambole is an outstanding player, he is an outstanding player,” Middendorp said. “Research, not only my research, has proven that the real value of a player is shown in the second season. He is here without taking a break. He was in the Cosafa Cup. He played a cup competition in Zambia on June 20, and he came here on June 25 and started training with us. We have to balance it a little bit. But one day he will start scoring and one day everybody will talk about he is the most valuable player in terms of forward position in the country. I am convinced about it.”

Bonginkosi Ndadane