Chiefs coach Baxter pleased with Dolly, Billiat and co’s powerful attacking cocktail
Stuart Baxter knows there is much work to do and that Kaizer Chiefs were far from perfect in their 2-1 DStv Premiership win against Baroka FC on Wednesday evening, but a sumptuous first-half attacking display provided plenty of positives for the coach.
Chiefs have much tightening up to do at the back, especially. But Keagan Dolly’s fiery introduction in right midfield, in turn sparking old Mamelodi Sundowns “CBD” partner Khama Billiat, and a plan that came together like one of Hannibal’s in the A-Team, certainly provided signs of the potential of Baxter’s new-look Amakhosi.
Cole Alexander and Phathutshedzo Nange, who had shown glimpses of their potential, were the forceful probing central pairing Chiefs have been looking for in their first official victory of the season, after they spluttered somewhat in their opening games.
Billiat, leading the line as a false No 9, was elusive of his markers, and could have had a first-half hat-trick.
The left-footed Dolly in right midfield and right-footed Samir Nurković on the left, coming inside as additional roaming playmakers and link-men to Bernard Parker, with overlapping fullbacks Njabulo Blom and Sifiso Hlanti providing the width, was a cocktail Baroka could not contend with. Nurkovic also attacked the crosses, as Billiat (ninth minute) and Daniel Cardoso (27th) put Amakhosi 2-0 up.
Chiefs attempted to consolidate and cautiously probe in the second half, but the still unstable defence allowed substitute Denwin Farmer free to equalise from a corner in the 59th, as Amakhosi hung on when Baroka surged in the last half-hour.
“It was excellent and the play, not only on transition, but the play where we had to pick our way through a stubborn defence,” Baxter said afterwards.
“We attracted them with Khama and we got Keagan and Samir in. When they were in off the line we had very high, aggressive fullbacks, and we shifted the ball quickly in the midfield. It was just very good football.
“Did I think we'd play that well this soon? No. Keagan certainly can't give us a 90 minutes yet.
“But I think it's right in the assessment that Keagan's quality in off the line, being able to hold the ball and allow people to get that eye contact with him, and thread things through. I think that did spark a few players.
“And I think it sparked Samir as well. I think Samir was better than I've seen him all season. So I think it was 'welcome back' there as well.”
It was just one match, and Chiefs have had plenty of false dawns in their six trophyless past seasons.
But Wednesday’s opening 45 minutes that set tongues wagging will have raised expectations among supporters of a far more competitive combination in 2021-22.