Ernst Middendorp began his second reign at Kazier Chiefs with three points after his side defeated SuperSport United 1-0 at the Mbombela Stadium on Wednesday evening.
Prior to this game, there was much talk of how Middendorp would change Kaizer Chiefs’ side as he looked to arrest their alarming results and defensive showings, in particular.
With Itumeleng Khune and Willard Katsande were left out of the matchday squad, the coach in a post match chat with our crew confirmed that both players would be seeing few game time as they are old and needs rest.
Under the new mentorship, Chiefs got off to a fiery start as Khama Billiat, Leonardo Castro and Ntshangase looked lively in the final third.
The German switched from the flat 4-4-2 used by his predecessor, Giovanni Solinas, and moved to a diamond midfield.
At the base was Maluleka, with Ntshangase as the shuttler on the right, Zulu as the shuttler on the left, and Manyama behind the front two.
Immediately noticeable was how much more compact the side were in this shape. The centre of the pitch, which has resembled a freeway at times this season, was protected much better.
The four-man diamond would shift across the pitch in coordination with each other, shutting down any space between the lines. This meant that the far flank was left unoccupied and the midfield could surround their opponents.
When Chiefs won the ball, they had two strikers to find on transitions, with Billiat running in-behind onto early deliveries on several occasions. Castro also offered himself on counters but didn’t have the same pace or comfort when running the channels.
In possession, Chiefs now had Manyama in a central area, and if Supersport’s midfield three tried to press Chiefs’ deepest three central midfielders, then Manyama was free behind Phumlani Ntshangase, with the two centre backs also occupied.
Some of Chiefs’ quick interplay was impressive, creating triangles with the fullbacks, shuttlers, and either Manyama or Billiat. One such moment saw Manyama played through on goal, but Ronwen Williams thwarted him.
Supersport were having real problems in the first 25 minutes as Chiefs forced them to one flank, then trapped them there.
On the right, there was very little joy with Zulu doing a diligent job in protecting Godfrey Walsumbi.