Santos could surprise

2010-11-20 00:00

DESPITE losing a league game against Santos in the last encounter between the two teams a fortnight ago, Kaizer Chiefs still have plenty of reasons to be confident ahead of tonight’s Telkom Knockout semi-final against the Capetonians at Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane.

Mostly this is because Chiefs are on a big high, having crushed arch rivals Orlando Pirates 3-1 in last weekend’s Soweto Derby league encounter, which saw Amakhosi cut the gap to league leaders Mamelodi Sundowns to just one point.

Chiefs also have a terrific record in cup games against Santos.

Not only have the Soweto giants beaten the Capetonians in every cup encounter between the two sides, they have gone on to win the tournament on each occasion they have faced the People’s Team in a knockout competition.

The most recent example of this was the 2009/10 Telkom Knockout, where Chiefs beat Santos on penalties in a first-round match, and the Soweto side ended up winning the final against Ajax Cape Town 2-1.

Similar patterns occurred in the 2008 MTN8 and the 2001 and 2003 editions of the Coca-Cola Cup, the predecessor to the Telkom Knockout.

Amakhosi also have an impressive overall head-to-head record against Santos: in 37 league and cup games since 1991, Chiefs have won 18 times to the Cape side’s six and outscored them 45 goals to 27.

Yet — as their 1-0 loss at home to Santos in a league game last week suggests — Chiefs are unlikely to have an easy evening in the beautiful Limpopo World Cup Stadium.

Under Boebie Solomons Santos might not be pretty, but they are very difficult to break down, which saw them finish fourth in the league last season.

The People’s Team have lost just one league game in a solid start to the season and looked efficient and clinical in defeating Wits University and Mpumalanga Black Aces in the previous rounds of the Telkom Knockout. Santos also have potency up-front.

Malian striker Sekou Camara, who scored the winner against Amakhosi last week, made it two goals from as many games when he netted against Maritzburg United from the penalty spot last the weekend.

For Chiefs coach Vladimir Vermezovic, the task is to bring his players down to earth from their spectacular victory against Pirates, where Amakhosi really turned on the style.

With Orlando Pirates also in the semi-finals — they play Maritzburg United at Chatsworth Stadium tomorrow — there is also the potential for another cracking Soweto Derby in the Telkom final.

But Vermezovic wants to keep his players’ minds on their semi against Santos.

“It’s very important that I do everything in my power to make sure that the players forget about Pirates,” the Serbian said.

“It’s good that we won the Derby, but now our focus should be turned to Santos.”

Chiefs had eight of their players away on international duty in midweek, who missed training for the semi-final and could be tired from the exertion of their travels and matches played for their countries.

Vermezovic said he has enough ammunition in his side to beat Santos, despite this disadvantage. “It’s our job to respect the international calendar. I just hope our players come back healthy and ready to go.”

While lethal striker Knowledge Musona was the two-goal hero for Chiefs against Pirates, Reneilwe Letsholonyane was also outstanding winning the ball and initiating attacks in central midfield.

Chiefs will hope their speed and fluidity of movement can overcome Santos’ disciplined and well-organised defensive structure.

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