Coach lauds Chiefs' character
Vladimir Vermezovic (File)
Johannesburg - Kaizer Chiefs coach Vladimir Vermezovic praised his side's character and big match temperament under pressure to come out 2-1 victors over rivals Orlando Pirates in their highly-billed Premiership match at the FNB Stadium on Saturday.
Pirates have held the upper hand in the Soweto Derby in recent times, beating Chiefs in the MTN8 final at the same venue the week before.
Chiefs headed to the fixture having suffered a second successive defeat, losing 2-1 to Ajax Cape Town in the league midweek match, but went on to dominate the Buccaneers - who were woeful on the day - with first-half goals from striker Bernard Parker and midfielder Siphiwe Tshabalala.
Pirates defender Happy Jele got his team's consolation goal in injury time.
"My team, I could see today how well they played under pressure. I'm proud of them and glad that they performed so well and that was a big thing for me," said Vermezovic.
"It wasn't going to be easy against Pirates to come out and perform well coming from those two defeats, maybe there was a small psychological effect.
"I'm also very glad that Parker scored his first league goal. He was complaining about back pain at half-time and has been playing at high level for the last three games."
Vermezovic's opposite number in the calm Brazilian philosopher, Julio Leal, struggled to keep his usually collected persona as he talked about his team not coming to the party on match day.
In particular, his star midfield duo of Andile Jali and Tlou Segolela, who were rested in their midweek 1-0 win over Santos and Baby Bafana striker Bongani Ndulula, who has struggled in his sophomore season to live up to the expectations set in the last campaign.
"The usual fighting spirit of our players was not there," said Leal.
"Two of our returning players ( Jali and Segolela) lost the ball regularly, and psychologically the team spirit was just not there.
"But I don't think that we were complacent, we just didn't get the game under control because of a superior tactical game from our opponents who played well.
"We were better in the second-half but didn't score early to put them under pressure."
Leal also opted not to include veteran striker Benni McCarthy in the match even though he has begun full training with the rest of the squad having recovered from a hamstring strain picked up a week ago. However, McCarthy is expected to feature next week when the defending league champions take on Mamelodi Sundowns, in what will be the two sides' third meeting in a month, having played twice three weeks ago in the MTN8 semi-final ties.
"Benni is not injured, he practiced with the group this week but still needs some training to lift up his fitness level to be equal to that of the others in the team," Leal said.
Set to miss out because of suspension will be Jele, creating a spot on the right side of defence for captain Lucky Lekgwathi, with Rooi Mahamutsa slotting at centre-back.
Chiefs carry an injury concern of their own with midfielder Lucky Baloyi suffering possible torn knee ligaments that may force him out of action for months.
Chiefs travel to the Free State province to play Bloemfontein Celtic in their next fixture next weekend, with Baloyi set to undergo an MRI scan on his knee on Monday.