Manyama firing on all cylinders
Lebogang Manyama has been described as like having a new signing this season by his head coach Ernst Middendorp, and in the last couple of weeks he has shown exactly why, with decisive strikes in the league at Golden Arrows and in the Nedbank Cup, to save his side from any embarrassment against Royal Eagles.
The 29 year old showed his human side on Sunday in wishing a “speedy recovery” on Twitter to Mamelodi Sundowns’ Thapelo Morena, who suffered a horrific injury on
Saturday against SuperSport United. In front of goal, however, Manyama could well be renamed “The Iceman” for the cool, calm and collected way he is hitting the back of the net for Amakhosi.
Against Arrows, it was Manyama who arrived right at the death to send a wellplaced volley into the corner of the net past Sifiso Mlungwana, and against Eagles, a majestic turn and clipped finish made up for a poor miss in the first half at FNB Stadium. The 29 year-old now has six goals in league and cup for Chiefs this season, to go with eight assists, showing just how important he has become for Middendorp this season.
It is notable that Chiefs have thrived despite the struggles of Khama Billiat for form and fitness. It was Manyama who battled after joining Chiefs at the start of the 2018/19 season, after a disappointing spell in Turkey with Konyaspor. No goals in 13 league and cup games for Chiefs last season tells a story of a man with his own issues with injury and form, a far cry from the wonderful 2016/17 season he had with Cape Town City, the reason Konyaspor came in for his services.
From the moment, however, he netted a double in Chiefs’ league opener against Highlands Park, however, Manyama has been a different proposition this season, and if Samir Nurkovic’s goals have stolen the show a little, Manyama also has to be a candidate for the same Footballer-of-the-Season award that he won in 2017.
With Billiat back now to full fitness, and Itumeleng Khune even getting a game, Chiefs are beginning to show a squad strength that many doubted would enable them to last the distance in the title race.
This could be even more important next season, if the ban imposed on Chiefs by Fifa stands and Amakhosi are not successful in their appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). Fifa’s decision to ban Chiefs from registering players for two transfer windows, following a complaint from Malagasy side Fosa Juniors over Arohasina Andrianarimanana came as a surprise, as it seemed it was Fifa who gave the player license to play for Chiefs at the start of the 2018/19 campaign. It would be a bitter pill to swallow for Chiefs, especially as “Dax” really failed to make an impression in his time at Naturena. Clubs do have a history of managing to at least get their Fifa transfer bans shortened on appeal, as Chelsea did this season, when they went to CAS after getting a similar two-window ban from the world footballing body.
Either way, this story is likely to have plenty more miles in the tank before it is over.