Ernst Middendorp. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/DIRK KOTZE
Ernst Middendorp. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/DIRK KOTZE

Ernst Middendorp has suggested he will not be swayed by media headlines when deciding whether to play Itumeleng Khune or Daniel Akpeyi in goal for Kaizer Chiefs.  

The return of long-time Chiefs favourite Khune from injury has posed a selection poser for Amakhosi coach Middendorp which has been compounded by a costly error by Akpeyi in their 2-1 Premiership defeat to Maritzburg United on Saturday.

A minute after Lebogang Manyama missed a sitter in front of goal‚ at the other end Akpeyi came far off his line and tried to control Pogiso Sanoka’s cross with one hand‚ only to spill the ball to United forward Thabiso Kutumela. This led to Tebogo Tlolane’s cross and Daylon Claasen volleying Maritzburg ahead into an open goal.

Claasen headed in a second goal two minutes later‚ a bombshell brace that‚ while it was reduced by Samir Nurković’s strike in the 77th minute‚ appeared to expose fragility in Amakhosi’s Premiership lead.

Khune had made a return — it was just his third match of the season — from a long-term shoulder injury in Amakhosi’s 1-0 Nedbank Cup win against First Division Royal Eagles in Chiefs’ previous game. Middendorp finds himself under pressure now to field Khune and not Akpeyi in Saturday’s Nedbank last-16 clash against Highlands Park at Makhulong Stadium. Akpeyi, despite his recent form, has a reputation for making costly errors.

“Do you really think that our goalkeeping department is not able to see what is happening‚ to see when is the right timing?” Middendorp queried after the defeat to Maritzburg‚ annoyed at a question over whether he might consider bringing Khune back. “Are you really thinking we just do because of whatever?

“There was a player [Khune]‚ he has been thrown in‚ and I said it in October that it was too early. And what happened? Out for four months again.

“Even [against Maritzburg] it was a very clear plan to play Khama Billiat for 60 minutes. But then he was quite excited‚ he stayed 90 minutes in the game.

“It’s a high risk. We really have to look into it: individually‚ how far players are to play 90 minutes week in‚ week out.”

Another question mark for Chiefs is whether Saturday’s defeat — coming just after defending champions Mamelodi Sundowns beat Chippa United 3-0 in Pretoria — exposed cracks in an inexperienced squad’s attempt to reverse four seasons without a trophy in their 50th anniversary campaign.