In defence of an attacking plan

Kaizer Chiefs haven’t had any issues scoring beautiful goals this past week. All four, coming against SuperSport United and Bloemfontein Celtic, were slick, deliberately engineered and ruthlessly executed. It’s the type of football that has prompted coach Giovanni Solinas to proclaim that Khama Billiat and Leonardo Castro are the best duo in the league.

The problem, which he has also admitted to, is the strikes going in at the other end have been anything but vintage. Especially in the Siwelele collapse on Wednesday night, both were easily avoidable and reeked of miscommunication and lapses in concentration. Daniel Cardosa, in particular, received a lashing from Amakhosi supporters and was widely labelled a “cow” across social media for his inability to judge the flight of the looping ball when the scoreline sat at 2-0.

Ironically, defence alone will get Chiefs into the MTN8 final. After securing the 2-2 draw in Pretoria last weekend, a 0-0 final result against United on Saturday will be enough to secure the tie on the away goals rule.

“We’re not going to defend,” Siphelele Ntshangase said defiantly at the club’s Naturena training ground on Thursday morning. “We’re just going to play our own game. The more you attack, the higher the chance that you create a goal. We need to go there and put SuperSport under pressure.

“When I play, there’s no pressure. I know what’s important. When we don’t have the ball then we must defend. When it comes to us then we must play.”

Ntshangase has been integral in that fluid play of late. Picking the ball up regularly from Willard Katsande in midfield, he’s able to move it with the fast pace that quick-off-the-mark forwards like Billiat thrive on. It’s a welcome change for a man who found himself marooned on the sidelines for no obvious reason last season.

Taking to the grounds for a recovery session the morning after the Celtic draw, Castro refused to lay the blame on the defenders for recent goals conceded. Instead, he volunteered that he and the forward line should be doing more to protect Itumeleng Khune’s posts.

“You know, some moments, as strikers, we also need to wait —to make sure when to press high. We can’t press high all the time. We need to learn and be focused in the last games.

“We need to try something different. Sometimes, when you play two games in a row, you get tired;we are human beings, so we get tired.”

It’s hard to disagree with Castro after perusing the first leg. On both goals, Cardoso and Siyabonga Ngezana were forced out of position and drifted to the left, leaving Ramahlwe Mphahlele to pick up Bradley Grobler in the middle. The right back was unable to show strength and was easily muscled off the ball for a clear strike. Had
there been more support on the flanks, this would have been avoided as the back four stood flat and kept shape.

There’s no mistaking that everyone in this squad is dedicated to improving their defensive play in such situations. With the final 90 minutes away, it’s an ideal opportunity to kill the silverware drought early in the season.

“They [SuperSport] need to attack,” Castro said. “In this moment we have the advantage because of the goals but us, we need to be focused. To concentrate on our job, our defensive duties. Anytime a striker has space
to exploit, then they will score for sure.

“I want this one especially and also for the team, because it’s a long time since they won trophies. Obviously, we know the pressure of the supporters, so we need to take this cup seriously.”

No stranger to trophies at Sundowns in recent years, Castro is aiming to claim the goals that earn him and Solinas their first silverware at the club.

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Luke Feltham

Luke Feltham runs the Mail & Guardian's sports desk. He was previously the online day editor.

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