JOHANNESBURG – Kaizer Chiefs’ Italian coach Giovanni Solinas admitted on Sunday that watching his side squeeze into the Telkom Knockout quarter-finals “took two years off my life”.
Desperate for a trophy after three barren seasons, Chiefs edged Black Leopards 4-2 on penalties after a 1-1 draw following extra time at Soccer City stadium in Soweto.
Phathutshedzo Nange gave outsiders Leopards a shock 34th-minute lead with a scorching shot from just inside the box.
Hendrick Ekstein levelled on 63 minutes, adding the finishing touch to a superb long pass from veteran Bernard Parker.
Solinas, who spent most of his coaching career in Algeria before joining Chiefs for the 2018/2019 season, admits there is huge pressure on him to deliver silverware.
After being semi-final losers in the MTN8 knockout competition, Chiefs have three more chances to break the drought this season – the Telkom Knockout, the Nedbank Cup and the Premiership.
“The shoot-out was so emotional and stressful that it took two years off my life,” the Italian said.
“We lacked six key players and that made our task difficult.”
Among those ruled out by injuries was Zimbabwe striker Khama Billiat, who Solinas believes is the best footballer in South Africa.
“We did not play well in the first half, but I saw a different Kaizer Chiefs team after the break – one that performed very well,” added the coach.
After matching Chiefs for 120 minutes, Leopards were let down by weak spot-kicks from John Munganga and Mthokozisi Nene that Namibian goalkeeper Virgil Vries comfortably saved.
Chiefs will now go on to the big Soweto Derby against Orlando Pirates on Saturday, where all 82 000 tickets at the FNB Stadium have been sold out already.
The other round-of-16 tie was also decided by penalties, with SuperSport United edging hosts Polokwane City 6-5 after a 1-1 draw.
Thuso Phala scored after 76 minutes for SuperSport, a team bankrolled by a Johannesburg-based pan-African group of TV sports channels.
Edgar Manaka nodded a stoppage-time equaliser, and after 30 uneventful minutes of extra time, Polokwane teammate Ayanda Nkili blazed a penalty over the bar to eliminate his side.
Title-holders Wits, former African champions Mamelodi Sundowns and Orlando Pirates, Baroka and Maritzburg United qualified for the quarter-finals on Saturday.
AmaZulu host Cape Town City Tuesday in Durban in the final round-of-16 fixture, after which the last-eight draw will be made.
AFP, Staff Writer