|TOP DOGS: SuperSport captain Thabo September|
and head coach Cavin Johson after Saturday's
"shock" 3-1 victory over champions Kaizer Chiefs
CAVIN JOHNSON has a knack of surprising us. While Kaizer Chiefs and the entire football-speaking nation were expecting the Senegalese giant Mame Niang to lead the line for SuperSport United on Saturday, Johnson confounded us all with the biggest tactical gamble I’ve seen in years.
The mighty double-winning AmaKhosi emerged at the Lucas Moripe stadium with THREE towering centre halves – Morgan Gould, Mulomowandau Mathoho and Tefu Mashamaite – to be greeted by a grinning Bradley Grobler.
Niang, the 1.94m scourge of centre-backs around the nation, is 11cm taller than the 1.83m Grobler. But that small sliver of apart height was enough to change the entire complexion of a vital early-season encounter.
The ploy looked like backfiring when Chiefs went ahead through their now-traditional penalty from Bernard Parker but an Enocent Mkhabela scorcher followed by goals from Bennett Chenene and a Grobler penalty secured a “shock” 3-1 win.
A dejected Gould tweeted: “Bad day at the office for us,” while Grobler responded after his first start of the season: “Yes please, top performance. Back to the top of the league!”
The outstanding Thabo September raved: “What a team performance, well done Mkhabela for an outstanding game @SuperSportFC mission #3pts accomplished!! God is awesome.”
Johnson, who took Platinum Stars to a stunning runners-up spot in the PSL last season, told me on Monday: “I just thought we needed to make a change. Stuart Baxter knows all about Niang’s height, how he wins everything in the air. So we started with Bradley. Mame was fit. It was just a tactical change.
“We struggled in the first half, we weren't playing the right way. But at half-time we had a big chat. I told them to play it on the carpet. It worked.”
“I started thinking about the change immediately after Wednesday's win over AmaTuks. Will I play Grobler and Niang together in our next game against Aces? Are there no secrets in football Neal?
“So far so good. I’ve got to say I’m enjoying life at SuperSport at the moment. I really enjoyed it when Niang was the first person to hug Grobler after his penalty!”
A crestfallen Baxter – who has lost two and drawn one in his three PSL clashes with Johnson - said: “I warned them in the dressing-room we had to be ready for a second half revival. We paid for 20 minutes of madness.”
In truth, they paid for fielding "The Three Towers" against Grobler, who holds the ball up nicely and doesn't rely on aerial delivery to have an impact. Chiefs, over-cautious and failing to throw their full-backs forward, simply had no answer once SuperSport levelled.
Sadly, many AmaKhosi fans were looking at England’s transfer deadline day for a quick signing or two – perhaps they hadn’t realised the South African window closed on Friday. Any hope of emergency reinforcements is gone. And that could be critical for South Africa’s biggest club, who face African Champions League qualifying this season on top of defending their double.
The truth is of course, SuperSport’s victory was not a “shock” at all. Those watching closely have seen the Chiefs decline coming for some time – in fact it took a grim grip two months before they lifted their long-awaited PSL title last season. One rival PSL manager has been telling me since April how Chiefs are lacking depth and quality, how they desperately needed to make major signings - particularly in midfield.
Their summer-long lead had all but disappeared after a terrible run-in last season. The last seven games produced just one win and the AmaKhosi have just that unimpressive opening 1-0 victory against promoted Mpumalanga Black Aces so far this season.
A quick glance at the AmaKhosi’s last ten league games reveals form more worthy of mid-table strugglers than possible double champions.
KAIZER CHIEFS LAST TEN PSL GAMES
April 3: DREW 1-1 with Maritzburg United
April 6: DREW 0-0 with Golden Arrows
April 20: WON 3-1 against Moroka Swallows
April 28: DREW 0-0 with Platinum Star
May 1: LOST 3-1 to Ajax Cape Town
May 15: DREW 1-1 with SuperSport United
May 18: LOST 1-0 to AmaTuks
Aug 2: WON 1-0 against Mpumalanga Black Aces
Aug 27: DREW 1-1 with Moroka Swallows
Aug 31: LOST 3-1 to SuperSport United
So that’s TEN games, TWO wins, FIVE draws, THREE defeats. Just 11 points from a possible 30. Scored NINE, conceded 11. And that, AmaKhosi fans, is not championship form.
With the transfer window closed, Baxter’s dream start as the first foreign coach ever to win the PSL in his first season is already looking slightly historical, even hysterical.
|Gareth Bale and the World Record transfer fee (thanks to BBC)|
The question is, with Musona suffering another clean sheet on Saturday: Where was Chiefs’ ambition in the transfer window?
Cavin Johnson will feature this week on BOLLOCKZ! my show on www.ballz.co.za, airs every Thursday from 10am-noon.
BOLLOCKZ! is backed by www.topodds.com - have a look at their site for my latest sports betting advice!
And finally, after many requests (including one from SuperSport United captain Thabo September) here is the infamous Bundesliga own goal from SSU goalkeeper Rowen Fernandez (he was the first one to show me this himself, big ups for that!):