To many, the loss of Khune has been the reason behind Chiefs’ inconsistent run in their last five matches
Ernst Middendorp might have come up short in terms of propelling Kazier Chiefs into continental football aspirants this season, but given their long injury list they were bound to succumb.
Chiefs crashed out of the Caf Confederation Cup following a 5-2 defeat on aggregate to Zesco United in the group stage qualifiers on Saturday at FNB Stadium – as they trailed the Zambian Champions by two goals from the first leg.
However, having already lost integral figures of the team such as Itumeleng Khune, Ramahlwe Mphahle, Eric Mathoho Joseph Malongoane and Philani Zulu to long-terms injuries, it was always going to be an uphill mountain for Amakhosi to climb even if they had got the two goals and a clean sheet that they required to proceed to the next round
“I think it’s very unfair to sit, and get asked the question that’s referring (only) to (the absence) of Khune,” Middendorp said after their 2-1 defeat on Saturday, as he refrained from the illusion that the only department that has been weakened is the goalkeeping.
“We are not playing golf or tennis, but we are playing as a team and everybody has to contribute. You miss experienced players, and we have about five to six national team players that are not around – it’s not only Khune.”
To many, the loss of Khune has been the reason behind Chiefs’ inconsistent run in their last five matches. Add to the fact that, deputy keeper Virgil Vries has, so far, failed to fill in the void left by Bafana’s No 1.
The Namibian shot-stopper has conceded nine goals in five matches – while keeping just one clean sheet. However, Middendorp once again came to Vries’ defence as he believes that if they had a “fresher team” on match-day they would reduce their error rate.
“We had mistakes in the first half and second, but if both players (Hendrick Ekstein and Siphosakhe Ntiya-Ntiya) had an entire week to prepare, they wouldn’t have made the mistakes,” Middendorp said.
“Of course, it’s a concern. I can definitely not be happy (about conceding), there’s no doubt about it. But, in the end I am working with human beings and have to be realistic. I cannot be going with the bulldozer through the dressing-room knowing how we have performed to get closer to the league in order to be in a better position.”
Chiefs will now turn their focus to domestic football – as the Nedbank Cup is still up for grabs, while winning the PSL looks far-fetched, for now.
Having played a game extra, Amakhosi trail log leaders Wits by six points. On the other hand the Nedbank Cup, might give the German coach an opportunity to reinvigorate his “Cup-specialist” tag with the Glamour Boys having led them to SAA Supa8 and Absa Cup glory during his first stint from 2005-2007.
“We’ve now got six days to prepare until next week,” Middendorp said ahead of their clash with ABC Motsepe side Tornado FC in the last 32 of the Nedbank Cup.
If Chiefs are really keen on challenging for continental honours next season, they will have to make some serious additions to their squad.