Coach Ersnt Middendorp happy as Kaizer Chiefs take shape
Ernst Middendorp has praised his frontline players as Kaizer Chiefs got their season off to a winning start and said Amakhosi will look to play more on the front foot to unsettle opponents.
Chiefs launched their campaign for a first league title in five years by winning a five-goal spectacle 3-2 away against Highlands Park at the weekend.
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It was a fitting start that the Chiefs coach will hope will culminate with the Premiership title to put a gloss on the club’s 50th anniversary celebrations.
Middendorp said he has seen enough during the match against Highlands to suggest that Chiefs will be a completely different team from the one that fired blanks last season.
The German coach said there will be more emphasis on attack this season.
“I think if you saw our front guys there’s definitely a little bit of a change (from last season).
"We always kept two and half or three guys upfront where we can have target and where we can make it dangerous for the opponent‚” said Middendorp.
Khama Billiat was left out of the team and enjoyed a rest after a hectic schedule.
Middendorp was impressed with decent debut displays from his new attackers Serbian Samir Nurkovic and Zambian Lazarous Kambole.
“We have seen a lot of elements I think from the game understanding and it is totally different from last year‚" he said.
"Samir is a fantastic player. Lazarous is also a fantastic player.”
Four years without winning a trophy is unimaginable for a team of Chiefs' stature and Middendorp‚ in his second season in charge at Naturena after three barren years under Steve Komphela‚ is fully aware that silverware is non-negotiable this time around.
Middendorp said he has spoken to his players and reminded them of the colossal pressure that comes with playing for Chiefs.
“We have to fight and we have to be competitive. I want to repeat it again and again.
“On the field and off the field we have spoken about what we have to do different (from last season) and I this is something we have to continue with.
“And I can only repeat it‚ forget about me‚ forget about anybody‚ I said this team‚ these players‚ this brand has a huge reputation and we spoke a lot about it.”
Middendorp handed debuts to striker Nurkovic and Kambole with midfielder Kearyn Baccus starting alongside Willard Katsande in central midfield.
Baccus was understandably ineffective in his first match‚ especially with Highlands suffocating Chiefs for space in midfield‚ and was hauled off at half time.
Chiefs struggled for fluidity and rhythm for large parts in their opening match but Middendorp said it is normal for a team with new recruits in the starting line up.
“It’s a bit difficult to really understand and to really explain that probably with a number of new players inside the set up.
“There were misunderstandings at times with our combinations‚” said Middendorp.
Chiefs will take their home game against Black Leopards on Saturday evening to Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium (kickoff is at 8.15pm).