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Chiefs coach Middendorp: “We have seen everybody giving advice and it was sometimes interesting”

Kaizer Chiefs coach Ernst Middendorp said‚ above all‚ his team’s significant 1-0 Soweto derby win against Orlando Pirates at FNB Stadium on Saturday displayed Amakhosi’s mental strength.

This was probably Chiefs’ biggest win of the 2019-20 season so far in their effort‚ under some pressure‚ to reverse four campaigns without a trophy in their 50th anniversary season.

A draw or defeat would have seen Amakhosi’s Absa Premiership lead – depending on other results – cut to one or two points. For a team inexperienced in clinching trophies‚ let along the league‚ such pressure might have been too much to contend with.

Instead Chiefs increased their lead over second-placed Mamelodi Sundowns from four to seven points‚ though Downs have a game in hand.

Third-placed Pirates‚ who could have cut the gap to three points‚ are now nine behind having played a game more.

Middendorp said the result was made more significant as the script the entire week had been that Chiefs would surely capitulate under pressure to the in-form Pirates‚ who lost their first match under coach Josef Zinnbauer since his arrival in December on Saturday.

“We have seen everybody giving advice. And I must say it was sometimes interesting‚” Middendorp said.

“And in the end if Jomo [Sono‚ owner of Jomo Cosmos] and [Golden Arrows and ex-Amakhosi coach] Steve Komphela and other colleagues were talking about how this final stage of 10‚ or now nine‚ games for us is about mentality‚ then they are totally right – absolutely.

“And it was definitely something in addition to the tactical work‚ that’s crucial to not only being physically prepared – you have to be prepared on the mental side too‚ there’s no doubt about it.

“The players have done a great job under the circumstance we have been in‚ not getting the results lately.

“And therefore it was‚ and it is‚ very crucial to win this game.”

Chiefs came into the game off a costly 2-1 home league defeat against Maritzburg United and a penalties away loss against Highlands Park in the Nedbank Cup.

Chiefs’ fight‚ and Middendorp’s tactical choices‚ were also key to a huge victory. A 3-5-2 formation that squeezed the dangerous Bucs in midfield and held a dangerous attacking combination at bay was as important as the decision to start with Daniel Akpeyi ahead of Itumeleng Khune at goalkeeper.

The Nigeria No 1 produced a monstrous display in goal. Lebogang Manyama did not just score a 31st-minute winner‚ he was vital in midfield too‚ as was George Maluleka.

Amakhosi meet AmaZulu at FNB on Saturday.

Source: TMG Digital.