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Middendorp suggests Sundowns played chess signing Maluleka from Kaizer Chiefs

Absa Premiership coach of the month for August Ernst Middendorp.
Absa Premiership coach of the month for August Ernst Middendorp.
Image: Sydney Mahlangu/ BackpagePix

Kaizer Chiefs coach Ernst Middendorp has suggested Mamelodi Sundowns played a good chess move signing key Amakhosi midfielder George Maluleka on a pre-contract in March.

Chiefs and Sundowns are involved in a death struggle like male pythons for the 2019-20 Absa Premiership title as football returns in a bio-safe environment from its Covid-19 suspension.

Amakhosi‚ desperate to overturn four seasons without a trophy in their 50th anniversary campaign‚ lead the league with a four-point gap from second-placed defending champions Sundowns‚ who have a game in hand.

Chiefs narrowly could not extend the lead to six points as they conceded in the 89th minute for a 1-1 draw against Bidvest Wits on Wednesday night‚ after Downs were held to 0-0 by Orlando Pirates on Tuesday.

After his team’s return to football where a quite well-tuned Chiefs could not capitalise on good chances‚ Middendorp was asked about the performance of young Nkosingiphile Ngcobo in a similar role to Maluleka‚ in midfield.

“It was a good move – let’s take talking chess – from an opponent inside the league to provide a certain direction. But OK‚ it happens. We had to find the solution‚” Middendorp said of Downs’ acquisition of Maluleka‚ who has been released from Amakhosi and joined his new team.

Chiefs’ coach said he believes Under-20 international Ngcobo – who looked the part in a match against Wits where no player could be expected to be 100 percent in flow after five months inactive – can play his role in Amakhosi’s title chase in the BSE.

“What I have seen‚ and we have seen‚ in the training sessions in the last three‚ four weeks‚ after we could work as a team‚ is a lot of good moments contributing in attacking in particular‚” Middendorp said.

“And so far he has done well in this game. Here and there we have to expect that it will not go from game to game. But we made a decision to put him in and he had some good passes.

“I’m not really riding the wave of ‘young players’‚ and ‘Diski [reserve] team players’. I believe that if somebody is part of the squad‚ it doesn’t matter if they are 34‚ or 19 or 20 – if he is part of the squad then he deserves to be there.

“Then he has done a lot of good stuff already in his development work‚ prepared here in our case by [Chiefs assistant and development coach] Arthur Zwane.

“And then let’s not talk [about age]. If someone is 19 or 34‚ I look at what is happening on the training ground‚ and if we get the impression that this is the right one.

“If someone is in the squad of Kaizer Chiefs‚ then he should perform‚ then he should be available for selection.”

Chiefs meet Polokwane City next at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday (kickoff 3.30pm).