JOHANNESBURG - Giovanni Solinas had the last laugh on Tuesday night as his Kaizer Chiefs side registered their second successive Absa Premiership victory away in a 2-0 triumph over Free State Stars, despite the coach having raised eyebrows by making seven changes to his line-up.
Amakhosi were fresh off their huge 4-1 win against Cape Town City on Saturday, and the expectation was that Solinas would look to build on that momentum in his title charge.
But the Italian tactician surprisingly made wholesale changes, leaving out Ramahlwe Mphahlele, Siphosakhe Ntiya-Ntiya, Daniel Cardoso, Siphelele Ntshangase, Leonardo Castro, Dumisani Zuma and Lebogang Manyama.
Some of these players weren’t even on the bench.
In their place came in Kgotso Moleko, Godfrey Walusimbi, debutant Mario Booysen, George Maluleka, Philani Zulu, Gustavo Paez and Hendrik Ekstein.
Solinas explained in his pre-match interview on television that this was done to refresh the team.
And they got the job done with two goals in the first half from striker Paez and Zulu, who netted his second in as many matches after he scored from the bench in Cape Town.
The reaction from Chiefs fans was one of dismay when the club announced the line-up on their social media platforms.
How could Solinas possibly think it was a smart move to ring the changes with only two wins from nine matches in all competitions during his stay at Naturena so far?
The coach was adamant that he needed to test the quality and depth of the rest of his squad and what better way to do that against a struggling Stars team?
Chiefs hit the ground running, and the two goals proved to be enough as they took the foot of the gas in the second half, with Solinas making more changes to rest those who’d survived the cut from his drastic changes.
The win moved Amakhosi to third place after seven matches, but could move one place down should their Soweto rivals Orlando Pirates beat Cape Town City on Wednesday night.
Chiefs could very well be starting to look the business, scoring goals and keeping a rare clean sheet.
They did labour, however, in the second 45 minutes, perhaps exposing those who have been in the sidelines for some time for a lack of game time and match fitness.
Chiefs next face AmaZulu on Saturday evening and a win there, depending on results elsewhere, could push them further up the table and cement their place as genuine title contenders – as expected.