“The results that we’ve seen in the past match-days is not what was expected but it was a chance for every team to be successful.“ – Ernst Middendorp.
The criticism that greeted Premiership leaders Kaizer Chiefs after their loss to Bloemfontein Celtic on Wednesday hasn’t shaken coach Ernst Middendorp, who’s adamant the title race will be decided during the last days of the season.
Amakhosi have endured a rollercoaster ride in their bid to consolidate their spot at the summit of the log standings since the restart of the season, having started their tenure with a 1-1 draw against fellow championship hopefuls Bidvest Wits.
In their second game, they came across as the rightful “incoming champions” as they came-from-behind to defeat relegation threatened Polokwane City by 3-2, thanks to a starring performance from striker Samir Nurkovic.
However, that proved to be a false dawn in determining Chiefs’ readiness to wrap up the title as they were outplayed by Celtic in their third game in a 3-1 defeat at Tuks Stadium on a chilly Wednesday night.
Chiefs’ loss means that they maintain their six-point lead at the summit, while champions and second-placed Mamelodi Sundowns will be hoping to narrow down that tally to three when they clash with Maritzburg United at Lucas Masterpieces Moripe Stadium on Friday (6pm kick -off).
But with 15 points still up for grabs, Chiefs can still amass a 67-point tally at the end of season if they win their remaining five matches and Middendorp is hopeful that his troops will be up for the challenge – especially with matches coming thick and fast.
“Nobody was aware of the current situation. Nobody said, you have to open a book on page 85 and see what will happen at this certain time. In the camp, with the experience of playing the tournament, the second and third week is the most critical,” Middendorp said.
“But nobody is aware of it. The results that we’ve seen in the past match-days is not what was expected but it was a chance for every team (that’s chasing for something) to be successful. We knew that not everything was complete after playing against Polokwane City.”
It has not only been the log leaders that have failed to hit top gear since the restart, considering that Sundowns have since battled to find maximum points in their three matches, drawing with Orlando Pirates and Highlands Park, while losing to Cape Town City on Monday.
“It was not a situation that since another team hasn’t picked up the points, I was carried away and thought everything was fantastic (heading into the game against Celtic). It was not about that at all,” Middendorp explained.
“In this campaign that started on August 8 and will finish on September 5, everybody must know that we’ll see results like we did against Celtic, which are not expected. It’s just that we need to alert ourselves on and prepare for better days like on Sunday.”
On Sunday, Amakhosi will be hoping to return to winning ways when they clash with Stellenbosch FC at Orlando Stadium (6pm kick-off). Much of the revival will have to come from the team’s stalwarts who are yet to bring their A-game this season.
Attacker Khama Billiat is currently growing in frustration after failing to score since September 19 against AmaZulu. But his coach says they are aware of his situation and are giving him all the support he needs during these trying times.
“We know it hasn’t been a great season for Khama. But everybody knows that he has a huge potential and we can only support and put him in the next movement. And expect that he can do better,” Middendorp explained.