The Battle Is On was the theme for the Soweto Derby and a battle it was. Most observers felt that Kaizer Chiefs should have been rewarded with a win over Orlando Pirates after a spirited performance. It didn’t happen though. The match finished in a 1-all draw.
“I am disappointed with the result,” reflected coach Ernst Middendorp, “but I am certainly not disappointed with the way we played. Compliments to my team.”
The German coach was particularly happy with his side’s performance early in the second half. It resulted in the penalty for Amakhosi, which Daniel Cardoso confidently slotted home.
Middendorp felt, however, that “we should have had more drive to score that second goal, especially as there was some confusion in the Pirates camp after our goal and we should have exposed that.”
Chiefs did get a chance to get the second, but Khama Billiatcouldn’t find the back of the net from close range.
Saturday’s game was one of the best Soweto Derbies in recent times with some wonderful football on display. FNB Stadium was sold out and there was a magnificent atmosphere in the stadium.
During the warm-up, the Amakhosi players wore a T-shirt in support of Wiseman Meyiwa, who recently had to retire from football due to injuries sustained during a horrific car accident in November 2018.
The text on the T-shirt read, “Our journey never ends. We are always with you.” On the back of the shirt was the midfielder’s name, “Meyiwa” and his jersey number, “38”.
After Cardoso’s goal in the 53rd minute, Pirates equalised ten minutes before the referee’s final whistle.
“We again lost points in a game we should have won,” Middendorp rued. “The same happened in our recent outings against Mamelodi Sundowns and Cape Town City. We were also the better side in those matches, but we were unable to collect the three points.”
The coach did point out, however, that his side has a few important players out due to injuries, including Itumeleng Khune, Mulomowandau Mathoho, Joseph Molangoane and Lebogang Manyama.
Middendorp furthermore explained why he took off Happy Mashiane at half-time. “It was a highly intensive game. A player can express himself, but not too much. It’s a learning curve for Mashiane and he will have gained valuable experience today.”
A player who the coach highly rates is Hendrick Ekstein. “He is an outstanding player. Hendrick is no longer a youngster and I see him as somebody who should be able to carry the team going forward.”
The coach was also more than satisfied with the debut in the Chiefs colours of the recently acquired Nigerian goalkeeper, Daniel Akpeyi. “He proved that we took the right decision to bring him in.”
Amakhosi are presently in fifth position on the Absa Premiership log with 28 points from 20 matches. That’s nine points behind log leaders, Bidvest Wits.
Asked if the points-gap to the top position means that Chiefs are out of the running for the league title, Middendorpanswered, “We just try to win very game, home and away. The season is far from finished. We will see some surprising results in the next few months.”