Kaizer Chiefs against Bloemfontein Celtic on Saturday night looked like a bit of a basketball match!
It really was end-to-end stuff, and credit must be given to Celtic for the part they played. They are not fifth in the table by mistake, they are one of the “not afraid to attack” teams. Obviously, they could defend better, but going forward Celtic are very dangerous. Having said that, Kaizer Chiefs were uncharacteristically bad in defence, they are top of the table because they can defend.
Chiefs played with a three-man central defence, and I think this affected them, because there were so many bodies in the centre of the park that they were not sure who was supposed to be marking who. When they changed to a back four in the second half, it changed the game. You also have to credit Ernst Middendorp that at half time, instead of making changes in personnel in defence, he made attacking changes, bringing on Dumisani Zuma, and not long after that he brought on George Maluleka.
Samir Nurkovic, the hat-trick hero on Saturday, has been amazing since joining Chiefs, especially as adapting to playing in a foreign country is more difficult than people think. The fact that he speaks the language, I think, has helped him a lot compared to someone like Andriamirado “Dax” Andrianarimanana when he joined Chiefs. It has had an effect on Nurkovic’s performance, and helped his adaptation. It is also fortunate that Chiefs’ style of play suits him, he plays in his proper position with them, he is not an out-and-out striker like Leonardo Castro is. The formation at Chiefs suits him, he brings the rest of the team into the game, he can protect the ball, and positioning is his strongest attribute. He can be a good supplier of possession in the air, and has a great awareness of the players around him, he is brilliant for Chiefs, not only in terms of goalscoring but also in how he assists goals.
I think that Castro is back to his best, and he also gives the front three balance. Dumisani Zuma wouldn’t be as effective if there was no Castro, he keeps defenders busy, they always have to be aware of his movement. He is also starting to score more now and gaining confidence, he is fit, mentally present. He had a tendency to drop deep and he is patient because he knows he will get the supply.
What you can’t buy with Chiefs this season is their character, they have shown it from the first game against Highlands Park since they went behind twice and bounced back and managed to win. This has been consistent in Chiefs throughout the season.
With Orlando Pirates, even when they were playing good football last season, when they were close to winning the league, and were giving Mamelodi Sundowns a run for their money, there was always a question of whether they could manage the game. That is one of the weaknesses of Pirates and we saw it again as they let Baroka FC come back to draw 2-2 on Saturday.
Going forward Pirates are electrifying, I do think it is just a matter of time before they start winning consistently.
The fact that the Wydad Casablanca fans were applauding Pitso Mosimane after Sundowns got a 0-0 draw in Morocco, they know how difficult it is to go there and deal with their fans, and the fact that they applauded him, has to stand out for us as South Africans. Sundowns have gained respect.
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