There was a time when Kaizer Chiefs seemed invincible and looked certain to win the 2019-20 Absa Premiership.
Chiefs had a healthy lead at the summit of the log standings, and one hand on the championship trophy, but ‘Amakhosi’ somehow blew it in their 50th anniversary season.
After a promising start to the season with back to back wins in their first two league matches, followed by an impressive run of eight consecutive wins from September to December 2019, Chiefs were riding high, mowing everything that stood in their way.
But all that changed as the wheels started to come off after the 1-0 defeat at the hands of Maritzburg United in February.
Soon after that, Chiefs suffered a shock 1-0 defeat against AmaZulu just before the lockdown, with cracks starting to show and Sundowns closing the gap to only four points with eight games remaining.
This is the period when teams began to work out the way Chiefs play, identified the Soweto giants’ strengths and weaknesses.
“They are a threat at set-pieces… teams are closing the supply. You think the supply comes from the wingers, but they are actually tucking inside, and it comes from the wing-backs,” once said Thulani Hlatshwayo.
A large chunk of Chiefs’ goals were generated from the aerial prowess of marksmen Samir Nurkovic and Leonardo Castro. Without the duo, Middendorp was left scratching his head over their replacement as they missed crucial matches due to suspension and injury.
While Chiefs fans were prepared to bet their last Rand that their side would easily break their five-year trophy drought, letting their imagination run wild, the German mentor didn’t have a Plan B, should Plan A not work out.
Middendorp defended his playing style and said, “even teams in the UEFA Champions League use this type of football system when they want to win matches”.
It worked for Chiefs earlier on in the season, but it wasn’t efficient in the last few matches in the bubble as opposing teams had figured it out.
Out of a possible 24 points from their eight matches in the PSL Bio Bubble, Chiefs only managed to collect nine with two wins, dropping the ball and losing the Premiership title having been 13 points ahead of eventual champions Mamelodi Sundowns.
Well, Middendorp was shown the exit door on Wednesday, 9 September, despite guiding the Soweto-based outfit to a top-two finish and qualifying for CAF Champions League, following a poor 2018-19 season, where the club finished outside the top eight.
“We truly believed and hoped that our 50th anniversary year would be better, and it indeed looked promising,” said Chiefs chairman Kaizer Motaung.
“The decision taken is part of a strategy to have the team win trophies again and to make our supporters happy because they deserve better.”
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By Tokelo Martin Mokhesi