Kaizer Chiefs coach Ernst Middendorp showers praise on red-hot striker Samir Nurkovic
Kaizer Chiefs coach Ernst Middendorp has showered praise on striker Samir Nurkovic after the hardworking Serbian delivered a man-of-the-match performance against Polokwane City on Saturday night.
Nurkovic scored his 13th goal of the season and had a hand in the two other strikes as Chiefs completed a remarkable comeback from 2-0 down to win 3-2.
Middendorp was understandably appreciative as the Absa Premiership leaders appeared to be heading for defeat until his players combined very well to claw their way back from the brink.
“There is no doubt that Nurkovic is a player who demonstrates the ambition and the spirit you need to influence the teammates and each and every player around him‚” said Middendorp.
“It is very important to look into it and he is one of our key players this season‚ he has made a huge contribution to a position that Kaizer Chiefs is in at the moment.”
Willard Katsande spearheaded the revival in the 71st minute and followed by Anthony Agay four minutes later with Nurkovic completing the comeback in the 76th minute.
Middendorp insisted that his players never dropped their heads even when they were 2-0 down.
“I haven’t seen players with their heads down‚ I haven’t seen what you are describing‚" he said.
"We have experienced players on the field like Daniel Cardoso‚ Khama Billiat and Eric Mathoho and Lazalous Kambole and Anthony Agay who are national team players.
"These are players who can handle being 1-0 or 2-0 down as we saw.”
The German mentor said his substitutions at half-time inspired the comeback.
“The main point is that we were only 1-0 down at half-time and there could have been at least the second one‚" he admitted.
"There was a new structure‚ new players coming in and a new set-up in the second half.
"We dominated‚ stayed calm and played to our strengths with set-pieces and crosses because we have players for it.
“It was for players like Ramahlwe (Mphahlele)‚ Bernard (Parker) and Katsande coming into the game that was basically lost to turn it around in eight or ten minutes.
"We missed a penalty but good‚ it’s not that bad in case you win. The second point for me was to keep calm and never give up‚ to try to find a solution and we did that in the second half and this side fully deserves to collect the three points.”
Nurkovic and Peter Shalulile of Highlands Park are now tied at 13 goals each so far and they are one strike behind Gabadinho Mhango of Orlando Pirates who is leading the race for the Golden Boot with 14.