The Citizen (KZN)

Remaining games ‘all like cup finals’

- Michaelson Gumede

Match-winner Gustavo Paez praised Steve Komphela for his tactical switch that enabled Kaizer Chiefs to scrape past 10-man semi-profession­al side Acornbush United and reach the Nedbank Cup quarterfin­als on Sunday.

Trailing 1-0 against the ABC Motsepe League side, who had also had a man sent off, Komphela took off two of his defenders and replaced them with attackers, a tactic which worked as Chiefs turned the game around in the second half. Paez was one of those changes, and he netted both of Amakhosi’s goals.

“The coach made the necessary changes when we were trailing and that became the turning point for us,” said Paez.

Chiefs didn’t play particular­ly well, certainly according to Acornbush coach McDonald Makhubedu, who lambasted Komphela’s team for a poor performanc­e.

“If this is the biggest team in the country, the national team is going to suffer,” Makhubedu told SuperSport after the game.

Chiefs veteran Siphiwe Tshabalala responded to Makhubedu’s criticism yesterday, as he picked up the Absa Premiershi­p Goal-ofthe-Month award for March.

“We are a big team, yes we are a work in progress and we cannot obviously control what other people say,” said Tshabalala.

Tshabalala added that they have been working hard and know that they still owe their fans some silverware, as the team have not won any trophies in the past two seasons.

“We have had a good run but we haven’t won anything. We need to keep working hard … I am happy with my personal contributi­on this season but obviously I always want to improve on my performanc­es,” said the 32-year-old.

Amakhosi are still in the running for both the Nedbank Cup and Absa Premiershi­p and Tshabalala believes that the bigger the number of teams chasing for titles, the better for football growth in the country.

“I believe it is good for South African football that we no longer have only two or three giants. Anybody can win the league these days,” he said.

The Glamour Boys are in action again tomorrow in a league match against a resurgent Bloemfonte­in Celtic at the Dr Molemela Stadium. A win for Komphela’s thirdplace­d side will ensure they keep up the pace with leaders Cape Town City and Bidvest Wits. Bidvest Wits coach Gavin Hunt has vowed to approach their remaining league games as cup finals, as the Absa Premiershi­p title race intensifie­s.

The Clever Boys, who are very much in the running for the league this season, host a Golden Arrows side that need no motivation after they dumped African champions Mamelodi Sundowns out of the Nedbank Cup on Saturday, and are in search of a third consecutiv­e win in all competitio­ns.

“Every game is a big game now, it is going to make a change in the league position, we need to approach it the best way we can. Everybody needs the points at this stage for whatever reason,” Hunt said ahead of their clash at the Bidvest Stadium tonight.

He continued: “It will be a tight game, they are a good side, they have done very well but we are in the position we are in and we need to finish the season strongly and make sure we are there right at the end.”

Hunt will hope to welcome back his captain Thulani Hlatshwayo (below) for this game, after he missed the Nedbank Cup exit at the hands of Jomo Cosmos, and the disappoint­ing home draw with Smouha on Saturday in the Caf Confederat­ion Cup. Hlatshwayo was yesterday named as the Absa Premiershi­p Player-of-theMonth for March.

“I think we are a much better team this season. We are going to push for the league,” said Hlatshwayo yesterday.

Arrows coach Clinton Larsen, meanwhile, will be relying on his youngsters to see them through to a top eight finish and to continue their challenge for the Nedbank Cup. One youngster Larsen is full of praise for is 21-year-old Nduduzo Sibiya, whose strike landed the knockout blow on Sundowns.

“He came through the MultiChoic­e Diski Challenge, he has been there since he was 13, and so have quite a few of the youngsters,” said Larsen.

 ?? Picture: Backpagepi­x ?? GUSTAVO PAEZ
Picture: Backpagepi­x GUSTAVO PAEZ
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