Chiefs were in Brilliant hands

2014-09-22 00:00

IT was technical, it was physical and it was close.

In the end it was captain Tefu Mashamaite’s 28th-minute header that gave Kaizer Chiefs a 1-0 win over Orlando Pirates and their first trophy of the season in Saturday night’s MTN8 final at a packed Moses Mabhida Stadium.

Pirates coach Vladimir Vermezovic was quick to point out that Chiefs goalkeeper Brilliant Khuzwayo won them the match. Itumeleng Khune’s understudy had pulled off a string of good saves in the 90 minutes — one in particular from Oupa Manyisa in the first half — to keep Pirates at bay.

“When the goalkeeper is here as man of the match that means something,” Vermezovic said after the most entertaining Soweto derby in recent memory. “We created some opportunities, but unfortunately for us they have another very good goalkeeper.”

Khuzwayo’s performance was perhaps a little overhyped by the man of the match adjudicators and Vermezovic. His save from Manyisa was breath-taking, but the rest were routine — indicative of Pirates’ struggle on the night.

Stuart Baxter’s Chiefs were technically superior, precise in their interchanges and compact in defence. The towering presence of Mashamaite and Erick Mathoho at the heart of the Chiefs back four, as well as the physicality of Willard Katsande in holding midfield left Pirates danger man Kermit Erasmus with no room to move in the first half.

With the lead and knowledge that Bucs would come at them in the second half, Chiefs coach Baxter instructed his charges to retreat in defence. The result was plenty of ball for Pirates, but not much in the way of clear-cut chances.

The win means that Chiefs have made the perfect start to the 2014/15 campaign — winning all six of their league matches and now their four MTN8 fixtures for a flawless 10 out of 10. But Baxter, though delighted with the concentration and application shown by his side on Saturday, says that Amakhosi are far from the finished product.

“I think we can play much better,” Baxter said. “Pirates dictated the play in the second half for long periods. We defended poorly on a couple of occasions and good teams like Pirates will get in and hurt you, so we could be a lot better.”

The Chiefs mentor added that it was crucially important that his players kept their heads out of the clouds, focusing on the future instead of successes past.

“Humility is a virtue,” he said, philosophically. “If we don’t keep our feet on the ground then we’ll be on a slippery slope.”

Though Chiefs were superior on the day, Vermezovic will be left wondering what could have been. The goal was a soft one, with Pirates unable to clear their lines as Mashamaite rose to head home George Maluleka’s free kick completely unmarked.

“We were aware that they are dangerous from set-pieces,” conceded Vermezovic. “We made the mistake. I said to my technical team before the game that whoever scored first I thought would win it. I hope that we reach another final very soon.”

Focus will shift back to the league this weekend with Chiefs hosting Maritzburg United on Saturday night while Pirates visit Chippa United that afternoon.

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