By Thomas Kwenaite
The topic of discussion around festive gatherings when the waters of immortality generously passed hands was the upcoming ABSA Premier League fixture between Kaizer Chiefs and Mamelodi Sundowns penciled for the FNB Stadium on January 9.
Funny how people allow emotions to cloud their better judgment when making an analysis of the upcoming fixture and most failed to look at the make-up of the two teams while some simply made silly comments that Chiefs will extract revenge on Sundowns next Saturday night.
It does not matter that Sundowns have looked the more settled side and have been quite impressive in their collective approach to games. In addition, they have not only shored up their defense which has become water-tight, though at times prone to silly errors, but their main strength these days has been their ability to score.
They are not only keeping clean sheets on a regular basis these days, but the stylish Brazilians are finding the back of the net with regular monotony. And it is not only the strikers but also their midfielders and even defenders seem to also find it easier to score these days.
While no two matched are the same, Chiefs will be headed for another humiliating defeat if they persist with the central defensive pairing of Lorenzo Gordinho with Morgan Gould as well as expecting Lucky Baloyi and Pule Eikstein to get the better of Hlompho Kekana and Bongani Zungu.
Millions of Chiefs supporters might not have noticed it or through blind faith are choosing to ignore the glaring deficiencies of fullbacks Pa Gaxa and Tsepo Masilela, certainly two of the finest in their trade but who seem to have slowed down considerably of late.
In the last game, Sundowns exploited the right back position after Gaxa had gone “walkabout’ and delivered a cross that was sweetly tucked away by Leonardo Castro as early as the fourth minute, sending the Chiefs defense into panic mode from which they took the entire first half to recover.
Masilela was also caught for pace and the central pairing of Gould and Gordinho often hesitated to the red signs flashing down the wings and consequently reacted slower to the danger signs, resulting in general mayhem within their rearguard and leaving goalkeeper Khuzwayo exposed.
But while Chiefs looked better composed in the second half than the first when they conceded three goals, it must have been disconcerting for Mosimane that his team switched into defensive mode as soon as Chiefs introduced Parker and Letsholonyane.
It was a natural reaction to try and protect their lead but it was an action akin to someone trying to jump in front of a speeding Gautrain. They conceded two penalty kicks, which Denis Onyango managed to prevent from entering his net, but Mosimane will be wise to keep his players switched on throughout the match unlike the last time.
Who knows what could have happened had Chiefs been able to convert the two spot-kicks? It is debatable whether they could have also panicked and maybe even cracked under the pressure exerted by a desperate Chiefs towards the dying minutes of the match.
But after all has been said and done, expect Zungu to once again dominate the midfield battle unless Chiefs deploy both Letsholonyane and Willard Katsande to smother him and prevent him from releasing the unpredictable Leonardo Castro.