Monday, 24 March 2014

Is this the end of the African road for Kaizer Chiefs? Here's the closest thing to a match report you're likely to get

UPHILL BATTLE: Shabba and Baxter
Kaizer Chiefs' shocking 3-0 demise in Kinshasa on Saturday, like Orlando Pirates supreme effort at TP Mazembe last year, will never be seen in South Africa. In fact, despite all those shenanigans in Lubumbashi last season, not a SINGLE Mzanzi journalist travelled to AS Vita on Saturday. Bizarre.

Fortunately the AmaKhosi’s efforts at over-turning that dire deficit at Soccer City on Saturday will be visible to all as Stuart Baxter’s men attempt to reach the Group Stages of the African Champions League. 

I can uncover no feasible reason from either the SABC or SuperSport as to why the crucial Champions League second round clash between South Africa’s most popular football team and the Democratic Republic of Congo’s finest went untelevised. Nor can any of the big soccer internet sites and newspapers explain why they failed to send a SINGLE reporter to the game.

So the nation went in to the big showdown BLIND. All I could muster during Sunday afternoon’s disastrous first leg in the Stade des Martyrs de la Pentecôte was this SMS from Baxter on the morning of the game: “Just going to squad meeting. Chaos reigns is Congo but lads have done well so far to stay focused.”

As the game unfolded on fuzzy video links, even fuzzier radio streams, computer crashes and twitter updates, it became clear that the home team’s 22-year-old striker Firmin Ndombe Mubele, capped six times by the DRC, was going to be the star of the night.

His first goal popped up on seven minutes. A few Chiefs chances later, he doubled the lead in the 35th minute before completing his hat-trick and the scoreline a minute after half-time. AS Vita also allegedly hit the woodwork twice.

Two of those goal, apparently, were “wonder goals”,  a pair of classics. How can I be sure on the basis of blurry images and hearsay? Simple. Baxter was on the SMS within minutes of the final whistle.

This is his concise summary of events:

“We missed chances and they scored two wonder goals.

“At 1-0 we have a set play and that leaves Masha (Tefu Mashamaite) free with the keeper. He misses and they go straight down the other end and score. 3-0 comes from a Van Basten copy (a reference to a cracking volley for Holland in the 1988 European Championship final) minutes after half-time.

“It was a good game but we will have to dig deep in Joburg. Talk when we get back, Neal.”

And that’s it. Apart from a few messages and pictures from Kaizer Chiefs communications manager Vina Maphosa (and the patchy video below), we have little else to go on before AS Vita’s all-conquering heroes – who qualified for the Congo league play-off last week – arrive in South Africa for the second leg.

On twitter, we attempted to find ways in which we could #welcomeasvita, ranging from playing live Steve Hofmeyr songs in the hotel lobby to piling the Congolese squad in to a dodgy taxi for the trip to Soccer City next Saturday. There was even a suggestion which should send Kulubhuse Zuma to their pre-match meal.

But while SuperSport United coach Cavin Johnson complained to me that his side’s 1-0 defeat at Tunisia’s Etoile Sahel in the CAF Confed Cup had been marred by poor refereeing – centering on a disallowed Mame Niang goal – Baxter has yet to tell us of any shenanigans in the DRC on Sunday.

So assuming the PSL’s “penultimate” ref Victor Gomes doesn’t officiate next Saturday – he gave FIVE penalties in a single game three weeks ago – Baxter will have to rely on an emphatic 4-0 win at home or face playing with the also-rans in the CAF Confederations Cup..

But as I said to him before he left the Congo: “If David Moyes and Manchester United can recover from 0-2 in Greece to win 3-0 against Olympiacos after the season they’ve had, Kaizer Chiefs can do at least that against AS Vita.”

With his champions six points clear at the top of the PSL, Baxter and his men have lost just two out of 21 games since early November – to Platinum Stars and AS Vita. They have NEVER lost a home league game in 18 months under the Wolverhampton-born coach.

Yes, 4-0 would be miraculous. But stranger things have happened.

FULL VIDEO BELOW, shorter version HERE

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