JOHANNESBURG – Kaizer Chiefs coach Ernst Middendorp has praised his team’s fighting spirit against Chippa United after they hung on for three invaluable points that consolidated their position at the summit of the Absa Premiership ahead of the season finale.
After the penultimate round of matches, Amakhosi are still top of the Premiership standings, level on 56 points with second-placed Mamelodi Sundowns. Chiefs would have surrendered their lead had they lost and the Brazilians won.
But Chiefs didn’t disappoint, as they defeated the Chilli Boys 1-0 thanks to an early goal from the under-fire Khama Billiat. Meanwhile, counterparts Sundowns proved that they are well-equipped for crunch-time as they made it three wins in four games after defeating Polokwane City by 3-0.
Sundowns’ goals came from Anele Ngcongca, Themba Zwane and Keletso Makgalwa. But despite the comfortable win Pitso Mosimane’s charges still trail Amakhosi with an inferior goal-difference of 3 scores.
Middendorp, however, admitted that his team should have done better, especially following a nervy finish against nine-man Chippa, who lost Tercious Malepe and Elvis Moyo to straight red cards in the second half.
“The management of the game, there’s no doubt about it, (it’s very important),” Middendorp said during his post-match reactions on SuperSport.
“We’ve seen ball position easily being given away in a situation where we could have easily played four against two. I am all aware about it.”
Nonetheless, the German tactician was pleased that his charges could pull off the much-needed three points, especially with everyone associated with the club breathing down their neck because of high expectations and concerns following their recent underwhelming run of form.
“But let’s be honest, not everybody knows what’s going on with the players here in the bubble, especially if you are in the present situation and fighting for your life,” Middendorp said.
“Expectations and mails are there and everybody has an idea, and knows better. But it was a wonderful team effort that we’ve seen here today and that is what it is about at this stage, nothing else.”
What a performance from the boys, claiming a monumentous victory and taking the title race to the last day!🏆
Let's go Masandawana!👊![CDATA]>👊![CDATA]>👊
— Mamelodi Sundowns FC (@Masandawana) September 2, 2020
Meanwhile, Mosimane cut a chuffed figure in his own post-match interview, pleased that the Brazilians have taken the title race down to the wire, considering that at some point they were far off Chiefs’ rear-view mirror.
“I am happy that they played the way we always play on a familiar pitch (Loftus Versfeld Stadium). So, everyone knows the areas where they always go to,” Mosimane said.
“Saturday is a cup final, whoever wins it, wins it. (But) we are not going to give it to anybody. I told you when we lost”
Mosimane continued: “We all have to work for it. It’s on the edge. We had one chance this season against Baroka to climb up, otherwise we’ve been chasing. But what’s good is to close a 13-point gap. So, I give the players credit.”
Chiefs and Sundowns will search for their last league wins of the season – which they’ll hope will be enough to secure them the league title – when they clash with relegation threatened teams Baroka FC and Black Leopards respectively.