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Not all is lost but Chiefs need to improve

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It’s okay for Kaizer Chiefs to feel the pain that came with the disappointment of losing the Caf Champions League final to Al Ahly, but it’s important for them to acknowledge that not all is lost, writes Mihlali Baleka.

Khama Billiat of Kaizer Chiefs reacts in disappointment after defeat during the 2021 CAF Champions League Finalagainst Al Ahly at the Mohamed V Stadium in Casablanca, Morocco on 17 July 2021. Picture: BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG – IT’S OK for Kaizer Chiefs to feel the pain that came with the disappointment of losing the Caf Champions League final to Al Ahly in Casablanca on Saturday, but it’s important for them to acknowledge that not all is lost.

In fact, their incredible run in the competition should be something that they can build on heading into the new domestic season as that will be their only focus – after finishing eighth in Premiership.

But just because Chiefs reached the final of the Champions League doesn’t mean they are a well-oiled machine. In fact, far from it. And that’s why the three goals they conceded against Al Ahly should be a wakeup call after being lauded for having a “solid defence” in Africa.

For some time now, ill-discipline has played a key role in Chiefs’ demise. And out in Casablanca, that was a branch of the tree. Happy Mashiane’s tackle on Akram Tawfik at the stroke of halftime was reckless and needless – and it cost Chiefs dearly in the end.

But in hindsight, that has been Amakhosi’s story all season long. The clumsiness of their defence nearly put the team’s top-eight aspirations in the league into serious jeopardy towards the end of the season as they were saved by goalkeeper Bruce Bvuma.

Going forward, Chiefs also need to train and play their players according to their strengths. Reeve Frosler is versatile, but was he worth starting at left-back, given that he failed to deliver a single constructive cross into the box where Chiefs’ strikers usually benefit?

It was a game plan that didn’t work for Chiefs on Saturday. And as a result, Al Ahly’s wing-backs seized the opportunity with their long diagonal balls into Amakhosi’s final third which resulted in the goals from Mohamed Sherif, Mohamed Afsha and Amr El Solia in the second half.

Phathutshedzo Nange, Sibusiso Mabiliso, Brandon Petersen, Kgaogelo Sekgota, Sifiso Hlanti and Njabulo Ngcobo were the first players to be signed by Chiefs since their transfer ban came to an end. But coach Stuart Baxter is not convinced they will bring immediate solutions.

“I think we’ll do a proper debrief of the game, and the players have got to do a debrief individually of their experiences of their whole journey. And we’ve got to see where we are deficient. And what was the reason that the team couldn’t win,” Baxter said.

“Problem is that although we’ve had a good run in Caf, we don’t have time to prepare even if we get new players in. So, it’s a little bit of a conundrum now. How many do you bring in, quickly can you do it and how much time do you have to turn that into a fighting unit?”

But really Baxter? If the players weren’t signed to ensure that Chiefs return back to the pinnacle of domestic football, then why was money wasted on them? Chiefs need all the resources and help, given that they are enduring a six-year trophy drought.

And that’s why it is, perhaps, up to these new players to show that they are the missing link that the team needs for the club to be great again. After all, when players join Chiefs, they say they want to win trophies. So, Baxter should change the strategy, discipline and reinforce.

@mihlalibaleka