JOHANNESBURG – Kabelo Mahlasela is banking on his attacking partners to bring their finishing touch to the Soweto Derby on Saturday.
Mahlasela’s Kaizer Chiefs have been blowing hot and cold in this second round of the season. They’ve been pleasing on the eye in terms of combination play that produces constructive football, but they’ve also been let down by their own frailty of failing to make the numerous chances that they create count.
Saturday’s clash, though, prohibits the Glamour Boys from such negligence as they go head to head with their arch rivals Orlando Pirates at FNB Stadium in Joburg (3.30pm kick-off). Add that to the fact that Chiefs have a score to settle, having been Pirates’ whipping boys in their last three encounters, which has subsequently given their fans some torrid times in recent seasons.
“Breaking through the defence is not a difficult thing,” Mahlasela said. “But our main concern now is our finishing. We are creating chances but we are lacking the scoring touch.”
The number of chances Chiefs have failed to put away have sadly come back to haunt them on multiple occasions. It is just unfortunate that two of those times were at the expense of goalkeeper Virgil Vries.
Amakhosi dominated proceedings against Mamelodi Sundowns and Cape Town City, but Vries was the culprit for the defeats in both matches.
What worsens the matter for Chiefs is that one of the Buccaneers' specialities at the moment is scoring goals, which has allowed them to flourish in both domestic and continental football.
But the 27-year-old Mahlasela is not fazed as he banks on their defensive unit to be at their best during what will be a sold-out contest.
“I’d never doubt my defence. As much as Pirates are quick in transition, I believe in our defence and I think that we’ll do better on the day,” Mahlasela said.
“I wouldn’t say that I see any weakness (in our team), it’s just minor mistakes by individuals. Each and every player make mistakes but we need to minimise them and move forward.”
The loss of Itumeleng Khune to a long-term injury and the inconsistency of Vries saw Amakhosi rope in Nigerian international Daniel Akpeyi as a fourth goalkeeper; they also have young Bruce Bvuma.
Akpeyi’s addition has brought a barrage of responses from the Amakhosi faithful. Some bemoan how he failed to prevent former club Chippa United from getting into the relegation quagmire, while many argue that his international experience with the Super Eagles will be invaluable.
Nonetheless, Mahlasela is hoping that whoever keeps goal on the day will ace his role.
“Having a good goalkeeper behind you gives good motivation,” he said.
“When a goalkeeper makes a save it pushes you guys to go and look for goals. The sad part about goalkeepers is that whenever they make mistakes, they are punished, unlike us as infield players.”
Mahlasela hasn’t lived up to expectation since signing from Bloemfontein Celtic 13 months ago, but with the derby about mind games and surprises, he’s vowed to come to the party if coach Ernst Middendorp picks him.@Mihlalibaleka