Kaizer Chiefs coach Ernst Middendorp has come out in full support of Daniel Akpeyi, suggesting the Nigeria international will retain the Amakhosi goalkeeper’s jersey in the Premiership.
There has been pressure from some quarters for Middendorp to turn to Itumeleng Khune between the posts after Akpeyi’s costly mistake gifted Maritzburg United an opener in Chiefs’ 2-1 Premiership defeat last weekend.
Middendorp confirmed his earlier stated plan that Khune will continue to play in the Nedbank Cup, where Chiefs meet Highlands Park in their last-16 clash at Makhulong Stadium on Saturday.
Bafana Bafana keeper Khune made his return from long-term injury in Chiefs’ 1-0 Nedbank last-32 win against Royal Eagles.
However, Middendorp also stood by his man in possession in league matches, saying Akpeyi has had a sterling season in Chiefs’ run to the top of the PSL and deserves faith, having made just the one error.
“For us, the indication about who’s playing or how we make the decision is from what is happening here on the [training] field,” Middendorp said at Chiefs’ Naturena Village on Wednesday.
“How the guys are performing ... We discuss it every morning, day in, day out.
“We started the Nedbank Cup with Itu Khune at goalkeeper against Royal Eagles. We go to the next round — we did it last year with Bruce Bvuma in the Nedbank Cup, and we are doing it now — and that’s the decision that on Saturday we will play Itu Khune.
“And let me make one statement. Our supporters at Kaizer Chiefs are very smart. They do not get carried away, just because there was a little mistake and we conceded from our defensive work.
“We have seen a fantastic Daniel Akpeyi over months, rescuing us in the final stage, saving a penalty.
“He was a player of the month [for September/October]. And what we have seen now over several months — everybody who observes Kaizer Chiefs and is following us knows exactly what a goalkeeper like Daniel Akpeyi has done here during the run of the season.
“And there is no way for me, for us, for every person in this Chiefs family, to be ignoring it.”
Chiefs follow their cup match-up against Highlands with the Soweto derby against second-placed Orlando Pirates at FNB Stadium on February 29.