‘In the second half, I thought we were better all round, and defended a little bit stronger.’
FOLLOWING a nervy start to the game, Kaizer Chiefs’ coach Stuart Baxter says he was pleased with his team’s comeback in the second half during their MTN8 quarter-final clash against rivals Mamelodi Sundowns in Atteridgeville on Sunday.
Chiefs and Sundowns went into this tie knowing that a lot was at stake. Chiefs hadn’t won a trophy for the last six seasons, while the Brazilians, who’ve been dominating domestic football for the last eight years, haven’t won the MTN8 for the last 14 years.
But it was the home side that hit top gear from the outset. Peter Shalulile put the champions ahead with a delightful header after being set-up by Lyle Lakay. And in a matter of minutes, Sundowns doubled their lead through talisman Themba Zwane.
Chiefs conceded both goals due to lapse of concentration in defence, having either failed to pick up the second ball or close the pocket of spaces. But they were presented with a lifeline eight minutes before halftime as Bernard Parker halved the deficit.
It was in the second half that Chiefs completed the turnaround, with substitute Keagan Dolly making an immediate impact, with his first touch, after setting free Khama Billiat who put his sliding effort into the top corner, beating a high-flying Kennedy Mweene.
The game ended 2-all in regulation time and extra time before Mweene proved to be the hero on penalty shootouts, saving four spot-kicks and scoring one as the Brazilians advanced to the two-legged MTN8 semi-final where they’ll face Golden Arrows.
“I thought we opened the game very nervously; I don’t know why. Sundowns took advantage of that and played between our lines and behind the backline. And we didn’t have any coordination in our pressing play. We weren’t chasing the ball a little bit,” Baxter said.
“They dominated the first 10 minutes big time and the goal came. That didn’t help us. But I felt that we were getting a little bit better. I didn’t like the fact that we were suddenly pressing a little high without any sort of coordination or instruction from the bench.”
He added: “Before we went into halftime, I thought we were in the game and playing better. Our attacks became a little bit longer and we were able to time some movements. In the second half, I thought we were better all round, and defended a little bit stronger.”
Despite the loss, a number of Chiefs’ faithful were pleased with the team’s performance and integration of the new players, having taken their reactions to social media. Chiefs will play their league opener on Sunday against TS Galaxy in Nelspruit.