Chiefs’ chase

2015-02-22 15:00

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This week’s 2-0 loss to SuperSport United had all the hallmarks of how Kaizer Chiefs lost their grip on the Absa Premiership last season.

Then, a 2-0 defeat by Platinum Stars not only put a dent in Amakhosi’s title ambitions, but the loss narrowed the gap between Chiefs and Mamelodi Sundowns to six points.

It seems Chiefs and a long break are not a good mix.

This was the case last season after the African Nations Championship in Cape Town when, at one stage, Chiefs had a 13-point lead over Sundowns.

They entered last season as favourites to win the

title after a 14-match unbeaten run in all competitions before the defeat to Stars – when the unthinkable happened.

It’s now history that they went on to surrender the title to Sundowns.

Fast-forward to this season and they are in the same position they were in last year at this time.

They are favourites to win the title, but have already dropped five points and succumbed to their first loss of the season.

Chiefs went down to SuperSport United with the same scoreline they suffered against Stars last year and have seen their 15-point lead at the head of the standings whittled down to just 10.

By the time they play their next league game against Ajax Cape Town on March 4, the gap might be down to seven points – if Sundowns win their two games against AmaZulu and Bidvest Wits.

Chiefs’ upcoming fixtures against Ajax, Orlando Pirates and Maritzburg United will test their players’ characters and mental strength.

Last season’s scenario will be at the back of their minds, and will put them under greater pressure.

If they are not mentally strong, they might crack under pressure and allow Sundowns to close the gap at the top of the table yet again.

But Stuart Baxter’s not pressing the panic buttons yet. He said that although he was a bad loser, he felt the defeat by SuperSport had eased the pressure on his team.

“Obviously we wanted it to keep going. But in a way, when it happened, I felt a little bit of pressure came off. It is over now and behind us,” said the coach of his team’s 19-game unbeaten run.

He said there was always pressure in football, but he was confident his players could handle it.

“If you can’t take the heat, you don’t belong to football. All the top teams across Europe are experiencing pressure, and life goes on,” said Baxter.

He said other teams had not taken the pressure off his players by openly declaring Chiefs favourites to win the Premier League title.

“What people don’t realise is that it puts us under more pressure to win our games. But in the end, it does not matter by what margin we win it.”

He said he was still working on re-establishing the team’s balance after losing striker Kingston Nkhatha to SuperSport.

“If we can turn our dominance and chances into goals, we should not have a problem. We will keep on working hard until the end.”

Chiefs were to play a third-division side, Edu Sport, in the last 16 of the Nedbank Cup yesterday.

They then head to Botswana for the second leg of the CAF Champions League against Township Rollers on Saturday.

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