Chiefs must guard against complacency
Kaizer Chiefs’ win over Bloemfontein Celtic edged them closer to their first league title since the 2004/05 season. While Chiefs were more clinical in the final third, I agree that the 3-0 scoreline was fairly flattering.
While the Glamour Boys were rather fortuitous at times – their first goal was marginally offside and Celtic should have been awarded a penalty in the 21st minute – I believe that champion sides create their own luck.
In the past, the bigger sides certainly got the crucial calls in their favour but these days I don’t believe it is as prominent as it once was. Refereeing performances are now highly scrutinised and, if anything, I think the officials are conscious of not favouring the top sides.
Orlando Pirates’ coach Roger de Sa would certainly agree with that assertion.
My standpoint, however, is that over the course of a season calls have a way of evening themselves out.
While Pirates were desperate for a win over AmaTuks to close the gap on Chiefs – which is now seven points – their opponents gave as good as they got over the 90 minutes.
Tuks are a well-organised team and have proved hard to break down this season. Once Steve Barker’s men achieve their first objective of reaching the 31-point safety mark, they will then surely focus on targeting a top-eight finish.
Meanwhile, Pirates simply have to believe that they can still win the league title. I still see Chiefs dropping a few points in their final seven games, so Pirates will have to take advantage if that indeed proves the case.
The Buccaneers have lacked any real adventure going forward in their last few league games. Their shyness in front of goal is largely down to Collins Mbesuma’s slump in form and Benni McCarthy’s lack of match fitness following a lengthy injury lay-off.
Prior to the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations, Pirates were scoring an abundance of goals. However, since the showpiece, for the most part they have fired blanks.
I believe De Sa will certainly look to bolster his forward options as soon as the transfer window reopens.
The Sea Robbers’ top scorer this season is midfielder Andile Jali, which highlights the fact that Pirates need to sign a proven goalscorer.
They could do worse than to acquire the services of Cuthbert Malajila of Maritzburg United. He has fired his side into seventh place in the league, but my only concern is that the 27-year-old is fairly injury-prone.
Tuesday evening serves up a number of mouth-watering matchups. Bidvest Wits host SuperSport United in an evenly-contested battle which pits fifth against sixth.
Clive Barker’s primary task was to keep the Clever Boys away from the relegation zone. He has more than achieved that objective and will be intent on entrenching a top-eight place. It just shows the value of having a top man-manager. Clive’s always had the knack of getting the best out of his players.
While it’s crucial to analyse your opposition in the modern game, fundamentally football remains a simple game: A focus on the basics, a strong defence and a dangerous attack. Clive seems to have perfected the art.
Turning to SuperSport United, they finally seem to be converting draws into wins. However, their attitude remains a point of concern as they came close to letting a three-goal lead slip in their previous fixture.
I believe that South African teams need to change mentality when they are in the lead.
When a side is 3-0 up, as a coach I would advise the players not to sit back and defend the lead. Instead go in search of a fourth, fifth or even sixth goal.
Our sides have to develop a more ruthless mind set, which will then filter through to the national side.
Loftus Stadium plays host to another intriguing battle on Tuesday night. Pitso Mosimane’s men welcome second-from-bottom Ajax Cape Town.
While Mosimane’s tenure started so promisingly, the honeymoon phase is now over. When the former Bafana boss first took the reins the players were hungry to compete for places.
However, now that the coach has settled on a more regular starting line-up, the players’ intensity and attitude has dropped off, which is disappointing. The players certainly have the technical and physical ability, so for me it comes down to their mental makeup.
Sundowns may be experiencing something of a slump but their Cape rivals are in even greater turmoil.
Aside from boardroom battles, I always felt that sooner or later selling their best players would catch up to Ajax, which has sadly proved the case this season.
Wednesday night sees the Soweto giants back in action.
Chiefs tackle Maritzburg United in what will be a tough encounter. Former Chiefs coach Ernst Middendorp is an experienced manager who builds a team that is structured and tough to break down defensively.
Chiefs need to utilise the pace and vision of Siphiwe Tshabalala who is in fine form. I believe that if he improves his game defensively, it will prove difficult to deny him a starting berth for Bafana Bafana.
While Itumeleng Khune has conceded just 14 goals this season, I feel that Tshabalala and his fellow Chiefs midfielders have put pressure on the last line by at times failing to go with the runner.
I’m predicting a score draw at the Peter Mokaba Stadium.
Pirates kick-off against AmaZulu at the same time as their cross-town rivals, and know that only a win will do.
AmaZulu have yet to lose in the league this year, which makes it a very tough assignment for visitors.
Pirates may not be in the best of form of late, but have historically prospered against Usuthu.
I would certainly start with two strikers upfront and mount pressure on AmaZulu from the first whistle. I’m tipping Pirates to win 1-0 and in the process get their title chase back on track.