His arrival at Naturena in September was generously described as the closest thing to claiming the lottery by one ecstatic Kaizer Chiefs fan. New coach Gavin Hunt repaid the Amakhosi devotee’s faith in him at FNB Stadium in Johannesburg when he delivered the winning jackpot numbers on his first day in the office on Sunday.
Chiefs had to work hard for the victory in this tough MTN8 quarterfinal against Maritzburg United and clawed their way back from a goal down to win 2-1 courtesy of a brace from man-of-the-match Yagan Sasman.
Hunt’s charges had appeared to be struggling to shrug off the disappointment of losing the league title on the final day of last season a few weeks ago and were lucky to concede just one goal in the first half.
A stray pass from Kearyn Baccus in the middle of the park rolled kindly for Keagan Buchanan and he graciously accepted the gift by delivering a perfect pass to Thabiso Kutumela. He in turn beat Chiefs goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune with a low shot that sneaked into the far post in the 35th minute.
The goal had been a long time coming as the Chiefs rearguard had lived a charmed life for most of the first half and looked disjointed.
Such was the disorganisation that there were times when they looked as if they had just met before the start of the match.
Maritzburg amused themselves for long spells during the opening period as they toyed with the home side like a cat teasing a mouse.
Daylon Claasen was a constant menace and gift-wrapped a delicious pass to Bongokuhle Hlongwane in the 43rd minute that seemed to be heading to the roof of the net but was somehow denied by the crossbar with Khune well beaten.
But things changed in dramatic fashion in the second half and Chiefs played with more purpose.
Hunt must have read his sleepwalking charges the riot act in the changeroom as they suddenly had a different look about them. The home side could have gone on level terms soon after the restart but Bernard Parker’s rasping shot was denied by the upright after beating the visitors’ goalkeeper, Bongani Mpandle.
Chiefs got another opportunity to score the equaliser when Khama Billiat created space inside the area and teed up the ball for Njabulo Blom, but the second-half substitute’s snap shot was again kept out by the crossbar after a deflection.
The woodwork appeared to be conspiring to ensure a disappointing start to Hunt’s tenure at Naturena until Sasman combined with Billiat to beat Mpandle with two goals in quick succession in the 73rd and 75th minutes.
“I thought in the first half we were still in the bus‚ we were all over the show‚ we were pulled apart. But obviously I am still trying a few things, which is difficult in a week and half,” Hunt said in his first post-match interview with Supersport TV.
Chiefs still had traces of much vilified former coach Ernst Middendorp’s DNA in their starting line-up‚ but this was understandable as they still have a hangman’s noose hovering over them.
They have not been able to sign any players during the off-season as they are still awaiting the outcome of the Fifa ban appeal case they lodged and which was heard by the Court of Arbitration for Sport [CAS] on September 9.
Chiefs were slapped with a two-window transfer ban in February 2020 by world governing body Fifa for the way they signed Madagascan player Andriamirado “Dax” Andrianarimanana.
Fifa imposed the ban on Chiefs after they were found guilty of signing Dax in 2018 when the Madagascan already had a contract with Fosa Juniors in his home country.
Chiefs appealed against the sanction and are now on tenterhooks as they await the outcome from CAS.
PODCAST | Cometh the hour, cometh Gavin Hunt
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