If Amakhosi can find their form in front of goal they will stun free-flowing Pirates
Ernst Middendorp is growing weary of his team’s ability to play beautiful and constructive football, and, at the end of the day, having nothing to show for it.
Against Mamelodi Sundowns and Cape Town City, in arguably their first real domestic tests since the appointment of Middendorp, Kaizer Chiefs were dominant as they played some mesmerising football, but were let down by an inability to convert their chances up front and ended on the losing side.
Virgil Vries might have taken the fall for those losses after some horrendous goalkeeping, but had Chiefs capitalised on their chances earlier on, it could have probably been a totally different game.
No room for errors
Tomorrow, though, there will be no room for errors from Middendorp’s team as they welcome arch rivals Orlando Pirates to FNB Stadium (3.30pm) for this season’s second Soweto Derby.
The German tactician understands that they might be wearing the cap of the underdogs but is banking on his team producing a similar or better performance than they did against Sundowns and City, and hopefully carry a winning formula to the end of regulation time.
“You have to start by looking at the good performance that brings effective results for yourself, then you can look at what’s possible or what can happen,” Middendorp said about their long-term targets.
“We played a fantastic game against Sundowns and Cape Town City, where in the first half a 3-0 and 4-0 to us could have been normal.
“But there were issues in these games (that saw us end up on the losing side).
“But we’ll do everything to go into the next game to keep our chances (of winning the match and the league).”
Going into this encounter, Pirates will likely be the most open book of the two teams due to their external matches in the CAF Champions League.
But the two teams who originate from Soweto share a common problem – they don’t have a No 1 goalkeeper.
Chiefs’ Vries was the subject of their vital points lost against the Brazilians and Citizens, while many may feel it’s too early to judge Daniel Akpeyi, who’s yet to make a save for the club.
On the other hand, Pirates might be up there with the pace-setters but after all the football that they’ve been playing this season, they are yet to have an entrusted man between the sticks as they rotate the roster between Jackson Mabokgane, Siyabonga Mpontshane and Wayne Sandilands.
But mostly, the Sea Robbers have made up for their defensive frailties by their potent attack, and Middendorp says Chiefs are aware of those issues.
“We analysed their attacking organisations and go on how they do the transitions,” he said.
“We also looked at the defensive organisations and their weakest points.
“I am quite sure that with the quality that we have in our attacking players, a certain player and at a certain time will explode. But this will be a game that will be decided on the (finest of) details.”
It’s been merely two months since Middendorp returned to Amakhosi’s hot seat having occupied it before from 2005-2007.
Their title aspirations might not have been of primary concern as he had to revive a team who were at their lowest ebb during the tutelage of Giovanni Solinas.
However, the 60-year-old coach has already won the hearts of the Amakhosi faithful with the promotion of Happy Mashiane. Not only has Mashiane been roped into the first team but he’s been impressive in the back-to-back matches that he’s played in just three weeks.
Middendorp has ensured that if they feel he’s ready for the derby, they’ll throw him in at the deep end without a worry.
“I observed him and how far is he in terms of handling pressure moments and for me he looks strong, mentally prepared,” Middendorp concluded yesterday.