Middendorp not in celebratory mood despite victory

Sihle Ndebele Journalist
Kaizer Chiefs coach Ernst Middendorp.
Kaizer Chiefs coach Ernst Middendorp.
Image: Veli Nhlapo

Even with their six-point lead at the summit of the Absa Premiership, Kaizer Chiefs coach Ernst Middendorp is still not a relieved man.

Chiefs finally reached and surpassed the 50-point mark after coming from two goals down to beat relegation-threatened Polokwane City at Loftus Versfeld at the weekend.

From 24 games, Amakhosi are now on 52 points, six behind second-placed Mamelodi Sundowns, who were held to a 1-1 draw by Highlands Park on Friday.

Chiefs showed their title credentials by overturning a two-goal deficit against Rise and Shine who’d struck via Lesiba Nku and Jabulani Maluleke in the 17th and 61st minutes respectively, before goals from Willard Katsande, Anthony Akumu and Samir Nurkovic in a space of five minutes midway through the second period turned the tables.

However, Middendorp seemed reluctant to celebrate the crucial win that saw them extend their lead at the top. “Having you seen me showing relief?’’, Middendorp asked when he was quizzed if the six-point gap relieves him.

“I don’t think so, [that he’s relieved] actually I try to be as less emotional as possible because this is a total different situation for each and everybody. It’s not about the relief for me, it’s about the ambition Kaizer Chiefs had set in the beginning of the season.’’

The German mentor substantiated his tactical acumen when he introduced Bernard Parker, Katsande and Ramahlwe Mphahlele at the start of the second half. The trio enabled Amakhosi to dominate.

“Compliment to players like Rama [Mphahlele], Bernard [Parker] and Katsande. I think that the second point for me is that these players were very, very crucial in keeping calm and never give up… try to find a solution.’’

Against Polokwane, Middendorp made four changes from the starting 11 that drew 1-all with Wits last Wednesday. Leonardo Castro, Kgotso Moleko, Nkosingiphile Ngcobo and Katsande were replaced by Lazarous Kambole, Akumu, Kearyn Baccus and Reeve Frosler.

These changes didn’t sit well with some of the club’s supporters. Middendorp understands the fans’ frustration, but emphasised the significance of squad rotation after a five-month lay-off.

“I fully respect Amakhosi fans in a way and there’s no doubt about it. I fully understand certain players are more loved than other ones, but we had a very clear discussion before we started with the remaining eight games that we need each and everybody,’’ said Middendorp.

“Optional to put a different set-up in place, seeing that some players at the moment can’t be overloaded, and it’s totally normal. We talk about six weeks in the pre-season, but it wasn’t six weeks, it was maximum of three-and-a-half weeks [they had to prepare for league resumption].’’

Chiefs next face Bloemfontein Celtic at Tuks Stadium on Wednesday (6pm).

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