COMMENT: Ernst’s Chiefs trotting on

Ernst Middendorp (Gallo Images)
Ernst Middendorp (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - Kaizer Chiefs are brimming with confidence - and rightly so.

Claiming bragging rights in a feisty battle with arch-rivals Mamelodi Sundowns on Sunday meant they further distanced themselves from the chasing pack.

A rowdy Loftus Versfeld crowd saw Ernst Middendorp's long-standing feud with Pitso Mosimane intensify following Amakhosi's 2-0 victory.

The two had a heated exchange at half-time, but it was Middendorp who had the last laugh with a crucial title-chasing victory in which Mosimane responded: "Is he sweetening me up?

"He's (Middendorp) one of the luckiest coaches, the goal that they scored was offside," is what Mosimane said on SuperSport TV in his post-match interview.

Pitso's jab was not enough to lure the German into a war-of-words as Middendorp complimented Mosimane, saying, "One of the most decorated coaches is still Pitso Mosimane." 

However, the Chiefs mentor's parting words in his post-match interview prove he has his eyes on the Absa Premiership title, something Mosimane had previously dubbed the 'Big Fish'.

"I think we're on the right track if everybody keeps their feet on the ground and not get ahead of themselves," he said.

With 21-games left for the Soweto giants, you can't blame the Amakhosi supporters for dreaming since a run like this for Chiefs in the Premiership has not been seen since Stuart Baxter's days at the helm.

Momentum carriers

A 12-point margin of victory for Amakhosi in Baxter's last title-winning season defined the club’s dominance under his tutelage. He helped the club hoist four major honours - Absa Premiership (2012/13, 2014/15), Nedbank Cup (2012/13), MTN8 (2013).

Amakhosi collected 25-points from their first nine matches during the 2014/15 campaign - eight wins, a draw and no defeats.

Baxter, however, did have several key figures in the squad that played an integral part in their title quest.

Itumeleng Khune, Tefu Mashamaite, Eric Mathoho, Tsepo Masilela, Siphiwe Tshabalala, Willard Katsande, Kingston Nkhatha and Reneilwe Letsholonyane were the core figures during that campaign.

A key statistic?

Chiefs conceded only 14 goals which led to Mashamaite claiming the Footballer of the Season, Players' Player of the Season and Defender of the Season awards.

In the current campaign, after nine matches, Chiefs are five points ahead of second-placed Sundowns with 22-points from seven wins and a single draw and defeat.

Meanwhile, despite boasting incredible attacking options with Samir Nurkovic, Leonardo Castro, Khama Billiat and Lebogang Manyama, Middendorp has also squeezed the best out of his youngsters, Yagan Sasman and Reeve Frosler.

Mathoho, who struggled with form and niggling injuries in the past, has been looking the part once again in the heart of defence alongside Daniel Cardoso.

The injury-stricken Khune has had a bit-part to play, but his understudy Daniel Akpeyi has been doing a decent job between the posts while Khune nurtures his way back to fitness.

Middendorp, however, will lean on the experience of Bernard Parker and Willard Katsande as the season progresses, but apart from a balanced squad, there also needs to be luck.

A bit of luck goes a long way

Along with Mosimane, Cape Town City FC coach Benni McCarthy has also been vocal about officials being lenient with Amakhosi.

"I think when you get smashed the way we did, and not because we lost ... The referee was terrible today - he might as well have put on a Kaizer Chiefs shirt," said a furious McCarthy in a post-match interview after his side suffered a recent Round of 16 Telkom Knockout defeat.

It's been years of coaches suggesting Amakhosi receive special treatment from officials and this season the volume of the complaints have grown louder.

On Sunday, Chiefs scored a goal that was clearly offside, but the referee awarded the goal and Sundowns had to restart the match from centre-pitch.

In eyeing a league title, every coach knows that each team needs a bit of luck along the way.

How long can Chiefs ride their luck before it runs out and can Middendorp's charges keep the momentum until May 2020?

Tashreeq Vardien works at Sport24 and is a paper basketball dustbin champion... Follow Tashreeq on Twitter.

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