Ernst Middendorp of Kaizer Chiefs during the Absa Premiership match between Kazier Chiefs and Bloemfontein Celtic at Moses Mabhida Stadium on December 07, 2019 in Durban, South Africa. Picture: ANESH DEBIKY / GALLO IMAGES
Ernst Middendorp of Kaizer Chiefs during the Absa Premiership match between Kazier Chiefs and Bloemfontein Celtic at Moses Mabhida Stadium on December 07, 2019 in Durban, South Africa. Picture: ANESH DEBIKY / GALLO IMAGES

After slamming his players for their “huge attitude issue” in conceding three goals in the first half‚ coach Ernst Middendorp praised Kaizer Chiefs for their hugely improved controlled aggression in owning the second 45 minutes in their thrilling 5-3 win against Bloemfontein Celtic on Saturday.

Chiefs went into the break at Moses Mabhida Stadium 3-2 down‚ their defensive shape at times shocking‚ with a brace from striker Samir Nurković keeping the Absa Premiership leaders in the game.

After the break a brace from Leonardo Castro and a third goal by Nurković came from Amakhosi controlling the play imperiously.

Middendorp said Chiefs’ improved performance came largely because controlled aggressiveness “is one very important aspect”.

“And we missed this [in the first half]. Of course you try to find some words‚ try to find a way to communicate to the players. And that is what we have done,” he said.

For some reason, Middendorp did not allude in the post-match media conference to what he had said in his TV interview‚ which was that he had some words with his players about their “attitude issue” at the break.

The coach had felt his league leaders — on the back of their run of success — came into the game slacking in application in the first half.

“The first half, I think we had a huge attitude issue,” Middendorp had told SuperSport. “We were not really in the game. We didn’t move like it should be to get to this position we are in at the moment [as league leaders]‚” he had said.

“It was much better in the second half. I think in the end we fully deserved three points.

“I would not say it was under-12 defending [in the first half] — I would insult the U-12 team. I don’t know what is below — U-8? Really‚ national team players.

“And it’s nothing to blame. It’s not the quality. It’s just the attitude. Where we are sitting now and we think we can do less. We cannot. We have to fight every team now.

“If you go into a game and want to do a bit of a prima donna‚ there is no chance to win a game in this league.”

Asked how he changed it at the break‚ Middendorp said: “Believe me I have my way to talk to the team about it.

“Ja‚ I think obviously it was necessary today. I trust them. They have a lot of quality. And everybody in the squad has a fantastic attitude. And thank God we were able to correct it.”

Thanks to Chiefs’ eighth consecutive league victory they maintain their 10-point lead in the PSL after 13 matches.

Amakhosi’s final game before the Christmas break is against Maritzburg United at Harry Gwala Stadium on December 22.