Chippa take their chance as Chiefs go off the boil
Kaizer Chiefs have been as reliable as Donald Trump’s hair in a strong breeze this season. On Wednesday they followed a stirring win at the weekend against Mamelodi Sundowns with a limp 1-0 defeat at home to second-last-placed Chippa United.
After ending Sundowns’ 22-match unbeaten run, Chiefs took it upon themselves to end Chippa’s 11 games without a win at FNB Stadium, substitute Bienvenu Eva Nga profiting from an Erick Mathoho defensive howler to score the 84th-minute winner.
Chippa appointed Vladislav Heric officially as their “technical adviser” earlier in April. But he has been on the bench for two matches — on Wednesday and during the club’s 0-0 home draw against Golden Arrows on Saturday — and on the team sheet he is listed as the “head coach”.
So the situation at the PSL’s most notorious club for coaching doubt remains muddy.
Given that, and the fourth firing of Dan Malesela, in March, together with the fiasco of the attempted hiring of racism-tainted Luc Eymael soon after that, Chippa’s 15th placing coming into the game should have come as no surprise, even if they’ve stumbled into the Nedbank Cup final.
For an efficient team, such a side should be there for the taking. Chiefs — a combination who have pulled off a highlights package of ups in 2020/2021, including reaching the Caf Champions League quarterfinals and beating Sundowns 2-1 at Loftus on Sunday, but have been anything but consistent — are not that efficient side.
After the heroics and energy of Gavin Hunt’s men against Downs, they laboured against a Chippa side who, while they may be in a fight for points to avoid the drop, were largely pedestrian.
Chiefs needed to find some consistency in results if they wanted to preserve breaking back into the top eight for the first time since January.
And Amakhosi did come out displaying a measure of the quick-passing attacking and tight defending that has been the hallmark of Hunt’s successful teams. But in a tight opening half, they produced just a few chances and failed to convert them.
Dumisani Zuma, after coming off the bench to score a first goal of his season against Sundowns, got a fourth start of the campaign. He was lively on the left to start with, beating Nyiko Mobbie to force a save from goalkeeper Ismail Watenga with a cross-cum-shot.
It was not just the game that meandered in the second half, Chiefs did too, losing direction and being stretched on occasion in defence.
Mathoho’s defensive howler with six minutes remaining had an air of inevitability to it. Sizwe Mdlinzo headed forward from midfield and the Chiefs’ centre-back, facing his goal, attempted a header back to goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune that fell metres short, allowing Eva Nga to run through and get the touch into goal.
Answers that Hunt has sought all season have not been provided by a lone rally against Sundowns. And the top eight and avoiding Amakhosi’s two worst finishes of ninth remain far from a sure thing.
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