Kaizer Chiefs coach Stuart Baxter was happy to emerge from Harry Gwala Stadium with all the points in the bag after a power failure moments before the start of the away league match against home side Maritzburg United eventually got under way more than 90 minutes after the scheduled kick off.
The two sets of players were left frustrated when they were forced to warm up three times as the kickoff time kept being shifted while electricians struggled to switch on the floodlights at the Pietermaritzburg venue.
A spectacular diving header from Bernard Parker in the 63rd minute won the match for Chiefs, and Baxter was delighted the winning strike came from a corner kick. Keagan Dolly elected to pass the ball to Khama Billiat instead of whipping it into the area, and the Zimbabwean sent an inch-perfect delivery into the box that connected almost flawlessly with the diving Parker.
Baxter said the uncertainty before the match was taxing on the team and he was happy Chiefs managed to retain their mental focus and carry out the job at hand despite the difficulties.
“It was really difficult because of all the delays, the sitting around in the dressing rooms, three different warm-ups and getting food to the players so their energy levels did not go down,” Baxter said.
Chiefs adapted to the disruptive situation more effectively than the home side, and Njabulo Ngcobo should have put the visitors in the lead inside two minutes after he found himself free in the area after a corner kick from Billiat. But instead of punishing the ball-watching Maritzburg defenders, the unmarked Ngcobo sent his header over the crossbar.
“I thought the first 20 minutes were OK in terms of our passing and our receiving and running behind their backline. I thought it was quite comfortable. We missed a massive chance to go in front [missed by Ngcobo], but then the next 25 minutes we weren’t as brave, either with the ball or with our pressing,” he said.
“They got back into the game and then you realise Maritzburg in Maritzburg is a difficult game. We changed at halftime. I asked the players to be braver, we pressed higher, we moved the backline quicker. We got the ball to our front players and we combined quicker, and I thought the second half was very comfortable.”
The winning goal was a well-constructed move that no doubt originated from Chiefs’ training ground in Naturena and probably took some time to perfect. Baxter could not contain his delight.
“It was nice to see us scoring a goal from set play. We managed the game quite well,” Baxter said, adding that “we could be better”.
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