Painful process: Hunt seemingly no nearer to winning formula at Kaizer Chiefs
Gavin Hunt’s search for a winning formula at Kaizer Chiefs has seemingly hit a brick wall again as the team prepare for a second tough DStv Premiership outing in a week against SuperSport United at FNB Stadium on Saturday.
At times Hunt’s adaptation to his first job at a big three club – the biggest‚ in support‚ but in their sixth season trophyless‚ more questionably on the field‚ and a Chiefs clearly in need of major rebuilding – has been painful on the eye.
The coach appeared to hit some indication of form with three imperfect wins in a row in January‚ but since then Chiefs have crashed to five games without a victory‚ the last of which were three defeats.
Losing 2-1 at home to AmaZulu on Wednesday, the 10-man Chiefs team notably lacked spark while AmaZulu possessed it‚ and the Durban team’s tactical approach by young coach Benni McCarthy also appeared to outwit Hunt’s.
“We had to make a change in the first few minutes of the game‚ and obviously that doesn’t help you. It changes your shape a bit and the balance‚” Hunt said afterwards‚ referring to Lebogang Manyama having to come on for injured Happy Mashiane in the 16th minute.
Manyama was later himself in the second half by Leonardo Castro‚ raising eyebrows.
“That obviously threw us off a bit‚ then we conceded. We had some good opportunities in the first half‚ and conceded right at half time, which was real slackness from a [Chiefs] throw-in‚ and then got ourselves back in‚ and then another mistake again.”
Hunt’s reference to “good opportunities”‚ he later clarified‚ was about being in good positions to create chances but lacking a final pass‚ rather than actual scoring opportunities.
In contrast‚ Augustine Mulenga’s drive thudded onto the crossbar for AmaZulu in the first half‚ before the Zambian scored two minutes into injury time before the break. and Siphelele Magubane also hit the post in the second half.
Chiefs’ two goals conceded came from errors. For the first‚ from a throw-in, Reeve Frosler’s weak challenge saw the ball worked into attack‚ and Mulenga's opener.
Amakhosi seemed to work their way back into the game as the threat of Samir Nurkovic earned the penalty from which substitute Leonardo Castro scored in the 67th.
But a second rash challenge‚ and second yellow‚ by Darrel Matsheke‚ reduced Chiefs to 10 men. Then goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune could not connect a punch from a corner to allow Lehlohonolo Majoro’s 85th-minute winner.
Aside from two costly defensive errors‚ AmaZulu were the more inventive‚ energetic and seemingly motivated combination‚ creating the greater balance of chances and deserving the win.
Hunt had seemingly found some kind of winning formula when Amakhosi won three matches in a row – imperfectly‚ as their coach was the first to admit – then drew two for a run of five matches unbeaten in January. The two draws at the end of that run have been followed by three defeats – including the 2-1 humiliation to GladAfrica Championship Uthongathi in the Nedbank Cup – making for five matches without a win.
As Chiefs face SuperSport Hunt must go back to the drawing board again. The coach was asked after the AmaZulu result if Chiefs are to some extent out of ideas.
“No‚ I don’t think it’s that. I think that the plan that we set out to do was good. I thought it was right‚” Hunt responded.
“I thought in the first half the final ball just let us down in and around the box. We had loads of chances to make a final pass and that would have got us a shot away.
“We should have done better but we didn’t. So I don’t think it’s anything about that [ideas].
“Their second goal was a real opportunist's goal – lucky. It came from a mistake. I know what to do and what not to do.
“But obviously it’s not happening at the moment.”
SuperSport have hit a minor speed bump of their own with just one win from four matches‚ having gone nine unbeaten before that. But Chiefs will still need a significant step-up in tightening of errors‚ and greater tempo and dynamism in attack‚ if they are to trouble Kaitano Tembo’s slick Pretoria outfit.