Kaizer Chiefs coach Giovanni Solinas says he did not react to criticism during the week by changing his game plan, which backfired in his team’s 1-0 MTN8 semifinal defeat against SuperSport United at FNB Stadium on Saturday night.
After three trophy-less seasons for Amakhosi‚ new coach Solinas’s job just got tougher as Chiefs bowed out of 2018-19’s first cup competition.
Chiefs seemed to be suffering from an identity crisis in the second leg. After Wednesday’s 2-2 league draw against Bloemfontein Celtic, Solinas was questioned‚ including by his own striker Leonardo Castro‚ for continuing to attack at 2-0 up‚ which seemingly played a part in blowing what would have been a valuable win for him.
Solinas defended not bringing on defensive midfielder Wiseman Meyiwa to close up shop‚ saying he did not want to move Khama Billiat from second striker.
But then he did just that‚ and not just with his substitutes but his starting lineup.
He brought in Meyiwa as a starter in central midfield next to Willard Katsande‚ pushing Siphelele Ntshangase up to striker and moving Billiat to the left. The coach admitted this disrupted an attacking flow from the beginning of the game, which has been Chiefs’ one strength this season.
Solinas was asked if he had reacted to criticism and Castro’s comments. "No‚" he said. "It’s because our idea was to cover with a much better central midfield. We chose Wiseman to help Katsande in his defensive job.
"Because SuperSport play three in the middle‚ we wanted to put pressure on the SuperSport midfielders."
Amakhosi looked more solid than their porous performances this campaign. But SuperSport capitalised on what seemed a muddled approach from Amakhosi‚ with Bradley Grobler’s strike putting them into the final.
Solinas was criticised twice for his tactics in a week — a week in which Chiefs missed out on a first league win and place in a cup final‚ both of which would have gone a long way to shoring up Solinas’s position after a nervy start.
His second-guessing of himself is most concerning.
Bringing in Teenage Hadebe to rectify a central defence that had been put under pressure by Daniel Cardoso’s shaky start to 2018-19 could have been enough to solidify Chiefs. Introducing Meyiwa too‚ as a starter‚ was an overcorrection.
"The idea was to start protecting our defenders with our two defensive midfielders. And we put Ntshangase forward‚ like a No10‚ to give the good pass and assist the strikers‚" Solinas said. "But in the first half, it did not work. Because in the first half our combinations were not positive. In the second half, we improved. It’s a pity because we conceded this goal … we needed this final."
Solinas has walked into a tough situation at Chiefs‚ arriving a month into the preseason‚ and his record of no major trophy raises questions over his credentials to turn Amakhosi around. This requires nerves of steel and assuredness. So far, the coach has been more nervy and self-doubting.