JOHANNESBURG – Unpopular new Kaizer Chiefs coach Ernst Middendorp made a winning return Wednesday with a 1-0 victory over SuperSport United in the South African Premiership.
The 60-year-old German was put in charge of the struggling Soweto club for a second time last Friday after Italian Giovanni Solinas quit just five months into a two-year contract.
News that Middendorp had returned to the club where he made little impact between 2005 and 2007 triggered a wave of social media criticism.
“Solinas was attempting to kill us... Middendorp will finish us off,” read one tweet while another said: “Middendorp will not bring us solutions, only more misery.”
But the German went some way to silencing his critics as Chiefs dominated SuperSport at Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit and should have won more convincingly.
The winner came on 64 minutes from an unlikely source as captain George Maluleka ended a 14-month goal drought by slamming the ball into the net from outside the box.
“Collecting the three points was the most important thing,” said Middendorp, who has coached five other South African clubs without winning any trophies.
“It was a good game and a good performance from my team. Another goal would have enabled us to relax a little more.”
“I am sure we will get better,” said the coach who signed a 30-month contract as successor to Solinas.
Chiefs are the biggest crowd-pullers in South African football and have won 53 domestic trophies since being formed 48 years ago.
But the last of those came three and a half seasons ago when they won the Premiership for the fourth time.
Victory over SuperSport lifted the Soweto outfit two places to fifth, six points behind leaders and greatest rivals Orlando Pirates halfway through the 30-round league season.
It was the final domestic match this year for Chiefs, who now turn their attention to the CAF Confederation Cup, the African equivalent of the UEFA Europa League.
The South Africans host AS Saint-Michel Elgeco Plus of Madagascar this Saturday in a round-of-32 first leg with the return match in Antananarivo next weekend.
Chiefs won the now defunct African Cup Winners Cup competition in 2001, edging InterClube of Angola 2-1 on aggregate in the final.
But claims by officials that they are among the top clubs in Africa have not been backed up in CAF competitions since with many early exits against modest opponents.
Agence France-Presse (AFP)