JOHANNESBURG – Dressed in black, hardly barking any orders to his charges – like a man clearly defeated – Kaizer Chiefs coach Steve Komphela watched as his men made heavy weather of beating a Platinum Stars side undoubtedly destined for the drop at the FNB Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
It took a goal from an unlikely source in Pule Ekstein, who found the back of the net for the first time since September 2016, to at least try to spark this Absa Premiership encounter into life.
It had been, and remained so even after Amakhosi drew first blood, an incredibly lethargic display from both sides in what ended in a 1-0 win for the home side.
They needed to show a lot more impetus for different reasons.
Chiefs had been humiliated at the same venue a week earlier by suffering their heaviest domestic defeat this season, the 3-0 thrashing by Chippa United turning up the heat pressure on Komphela, who was pelted with objects by fans at the sound of the final whistle.
The result on Saturday night between log leaders Mamelodi Sundowns and reigning champions Bidvest Wits, the Brazilians being 2-0 victors, meant Amakhosi were now mathematically out of the title race.
There was a low crowd attendance on Sunday, but one big enough to still be able to make a noise had the outcome again not favoured the home side.
For visitors Stars, every game until the end of the season is a must-win.
The side that’s rooted to the foot of the table played with very little energy, almost as bad as their opponents on the day, and compounded their woes with this defeat.
With only three games remaining and Dikwena seven points behind the side closest to them in the relegation dogfight (Ajax Cape Town), coach Roger de Sa might as well prepare for life in the National First Division unless, by some divine intervention, the current log standings change.
It looked like they would at the very least force a draw from this trip to Johannesburg as both sides hobbled along, with very little penetration in the final third.
Komphela had rested talisman Siphiwe Tshabalala and only brought him on in the final 10 minutes as defender Tsepo Masilela, who had been on the sidelines due to an injury since August, was worn out.
Tshabalala was also being rested ahead of this weekend’s Nedbank Cup semi-final against Free State Stars in Durban.
Joseph Molangoane returned to the starting line-up to take the place of another injured defender in Ramahlwe Mphahlele in one of several changes by Komphela.
The truth, however, is that Chiefs hardly played with any urgency, given that the target now is to try and finish in second place and qualify for the Caf Champions League next season.
But it’s important for Komphela to finish strongly, if he has any hope of winning the remaining domestic trophy and swaying management into extending his contract – which is highly unlikely.
The silverware cabinet at Naturena remains empty since Komphela walked in at the club’s headquarters almost three years ago.
That, unfortunately, is enough reason for the two parties to go their separate ways.