Monday, 16 March 2015

THAT KAIZER CHIEFS SLUMP: Baxter senses danger as Swallows sack Madida, the TWELFTH coach gone this season

RARE SIGHT: Mandla Masango celebrates Kaizer Chiefs only PSL goal
in 2015 during the 1-0 win against Ajax Cape Town on March 4
EXACTLY a month ago, I wrote here about the Kaizer Chiefs annual slump, pointing out the danger of the mighty AmaKhosi letting things slip again after the Christmas break.

Since I wrote this things have gone from bad to worse at Naturena, with points and goals drying up faster than a duck pond in the Sahara.

Two seasons ago, when Baxter became the first foreign coach to win the title in his first season, Chiefs hung on to win the title by a point from Platinum Stars. Last season, Mamelodi Sundowns swept past them to snatch the Absa trophy.

But this year, the slump is more of a collapse; though low-scoring “marksman” Kingston Nkhatha decamped controversially to SuperSport United (and scored a few early goals) little has changed in the camp, apart from the arrival of R4m striker David Zulu, who was carrying a knee injury before he left Chippa United.

When I wrote my last piece, Chiefs – unbeaten at Christmas and 18 points clear – contrived a 0-0 draw with Bloemfontein Celtic and a 2-0 defeat against Nkhatha’s SuperSport United as they resumed after the break.

Since then, they’ve beaten Ajax Cape Town 1-0; drew 0-0 with Orlando Pirates in a disappointing Soweto Derby and, just last week, suffered a shock 1-0 defeat against Steve Komphela’s Maritzburg United. Komphela said afterwards: “The team that doesn’t know how to lose was beaten by a team which had forgotten how to win. We had exhausted every way to lose, so we had no option but to win.”

Saturday’s 1-0 defeat against Morocco’s African Club Cup semi-finalists Raja Casablanca was almost a relief. The early goal – from a Chiefs-style set-piece – was all the visitors could muster at the Moses Mabhida and, as Baxter said: “I wasn’t too disappointed with our performance after that.”

There were, of course, the 2-0 and 1-0 wins over Botswana’s Township Rollers in the African Champions League and a 4-0 win over Edu Sports in the Nedbank Cup, but if you discount those three, Kaizer Chiefs record in the PSL since Christmas reads:

Played FIVE, won ONE, drew TWO, lost TWO. That run has seen Mamelodi Sundowns close the gap to eight points, potentially five if Masandawana win their game in hand.

But how about goals scored? ONE. Yes, just that 15th minute Mandla Masango rebound after George Lebese’s shot at Soccer City against Ajax. One goal in 450 minutes of League football from the runaway leaders. Shocking.

Tomorrow night at Dobsonville, Baxter’s strike force must muster SOMETHING against low-flying Moroka Swallows - who sacked their coach tonight - or the massive mid-season lead will have been frittered away in record time.

Following Fani Madida’s departure from Moroka Swallows tonight, here’s the full list of TWELVE PSL coaches who have moved posts this season:

Cavin Johnson (SuperSport United)
Kosta Papic (Chippa United)
Boebie Solomons (Polokwane City)
Craig Rosslee (Amazulu)
Zeca Marques (Moroka Swallows)
Tom Saintfiet (Free State Stars)
Steve Barker (Tuks)
Vladimir Vermezovic (Orlando Pirates)
Ernst Middendorp (Bloemfontein Celtic)
Roger Sikhakhane (Chippa United)
Clive Barker (Mpumalanga Black Aces)
Fani Madida (Moroka Swallows)

That means only SIX clubs out of SIXTEEN have survived the season so far: Stuart Baxter (Kaizer Chiefs, longest serving in the country at nearly THREE seasons), Pitso Mosimane (champions Mamelodi Sundowns), Gavin Hunt (Bidvest Wits), Roger de Sa (Ajax Cape Town), Steve Komphela (Maritzburg United) and under-pressure Allen Freese (Platinum Stars).

And as for the return against Raja Casablanca, what chance do the mighty AmaKhosi have? One of the best known brands on the continent face an early exit once more, along with Sundowns, who could only manage a 1-0 home win against TP Mazembe despite a first half red card for the visitors.

We all know how difficult Lumbumbashi can be for visitors – just ask Roger De Sa about the dubious penalties and red cards – and to be honest, will a 2-1 advantage be enough to stop the Taxmen finally getting their revenge on Doctor Irvin Khoza’s Orlando Pirates at plucky Uganda Revenue Service?

All of which will leave South Africa – like the English, who will probably see Arsenal and Manchester City fail this week – OUT of all continental competition. And with only domestic trophies to focus on.

Perhaps that will focus the mind for Katlego Mphela and Bernard Parker… or David Zulu and Hendrick Ekstein… or Mandla Masango and Matty Rusike.

Baxter insists: “We played better against Raja than in some games we’ve won. But  if you don’t score, you don’t win. It’s a worry. We’re working hard on it.”

Part of that process is getting James Keene, a 29-year-old from Portsmouth, England, over for a trial. A journeyman striker who scored 25 Bundesliga goals for Elfsborg at his peak, is a free agent after failing to score for NorthEast United FC in the inaugural Indian Super League season. He is expected to train with the AmaKhosi this week.

But Keene won't play against Swallows. If it's hard work you're looking for, I’d go for Ekstein and Rusike. Or perhaps, as I said last night on twitter, try the Manchester United 4-1-4-1 with Willard Katsande in front of the back four. String MaLeMa (Masango, Lebese, Maluleka) across the midfield with Ekstein and stick Zulu up front on his own (if fit).

It’s the one combination untried so far. Can’t be any worse than the last two months, Stuart.

James Keene video below:

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