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Hunt happy but cautious about Chiefs winning return

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Kaizer Chiefs coach Gavin Hunt was relatively pleased with his team’s outing in the CAF Champions League’s group stage on Saturday but he is not getting carried away.

Gavin Hunt Coach of Kaizer Chiefs. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG – Kaizer Chiefs coach Gavin Hunt was relatively pleased with his team’s outing in the CAF Champions League’s group stage on Saturday but he is not getting carried away.

After an eight-game winless streak in all competitions, Chiefs returned to winning ways, defeating Angolans Petro de Luanda 2-0 at home, the FNB Stadium, to bag their first win in the group stage after drawing with Horoya AC and losing to Wydad Casablanca.

That victory has ensured that Chiefs kept their chances for qualifying for the quarter-finals alive as they are third on the log with four points, level with the second-placed Horoya, with three matches to play. Amakhosi, though, will turn their focus to domestic football on Wednesday.

Hunt’s men will be away to strugglers Maritzburg United at the Harry Gwala Stadium, hoping to rack up three points that could inject some positivity to their disappointing campaign as they are embarrassingly 10th on the standings with 19 points.

“We know that the PSL compared to the Champions League is a totally different game of football,” Hunt explained. “PSL is much quicker and harder. I won’t say in terms of the physicality but the running. So, it’s a totally different game.”

Hunt added: “We have a big game on Wednesday, so we need to try and catch up. We’ve been missing a lot of games. I think we are two and three games behind now. As much as we want to do well on this front, we need to catch up.”

Hunt had every right to be delighted with his team’s performance against Luanda, considering that he made eight changes to the team that was walloped 4-0 by Wydad a week ago at the Stade du 4 Août in Burkina Faso.

Goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune is on compassionate leave after losing his sister on Thursday. Captain and defender Ramahlwe Mphahlele was suspended after receiving a red card against Wydad, while striking duo Samir Nurkovic and Leonardo Castro were nursing injuries.

Chiefs’ goals, meanwhile, came from the head of Eric Mathoho in the first half and from the boot of Happy Mashiane late in the second. This was a pleasant sight for Hunt, seeing some of the outfield players stepping up in the absence of his strikers.

“We had to try something,” Hunt said. “That’s why I played Bernard (Parker) and ‘Mshini’ (Nkosingiphile Ngcobo) with a little bit of movement, which looked Ok sometimes. Sometimes in hardship these things (making victorious adjustments) come out.”

In the hardship of being blocked from signing any new players this season, Chiefs’ campaign has also been hampered by injuries. And that has forced Hunt into a corner as he has to throw youngsters in the deep end. But it must have been pleasing that players such as Mashiane, 23, have risen to the occasion.

“He’s been injured. You can’t play him. They come back, they are in and out, and you can’t get any consistency. Tonight, we finished the game with six young players. It was the first time that happened. It’s a good sign but you won’t always get away with it,” he said.

@MihlaliBaleka