Cape Town - Kaizer Chiefs coach Ernst Middendorp says he felt forced by the Amakhosi faithful to field Itumeleng Khune against his own best thinking.
Khune started in the 1-0 victory over Baroka, but limped off the field with an injury in the 26th minute and replaced by Daniel Akpeyi, who ended up winning the man-of-the-match award.
Middendorp says his gut feeling told him not to start Khune, with the club captain having made his first competitive appearance in 297 days just three days earlier in a 2-0 victory over AmaZulu.
In the end the decision backfired on the German tactician, who admits he was pressured into it by the fans, whom he feared would have chased him out the stadium if Akpeyi started.
"I really could hit myself. I’m aware about it, he was not [ready]… Guys, but if I do what I had in my head, I think they will chase me out of the stadium before we start the game," said the Glamour Boys' boss.
"Fact is, a player like Itu Khune hasn’t played in eight months and Tuesday was a very intense game against AmaZulu for him too.
"Three and a half days later… Ja, he was on the field, but he should not have been on the field. If you go under normal circumstances, you start today with Daniel and Khune is on Tuesday one week into it.
"This was too much, simple-easy, that is what we have to see in the professional side. I was aware about it, I made it very clear myself, but I didn’t want to get chased out of the stadium."
Chiefs, who were on the backfoot for the majority of the game, have Akpeyi, Nigeria's first-choice shot-stopper, to thank for the fact that they remain top of the table as the Super Eagles' number one pulled off a string of brilliant saves to ensure a narrow, hard-fought victory.
And Middendorp was full of praise for Akpeyi after the game, who often undeservedly provokes the ire of Chiefs supporters.
"I’ve said it already. If there is still somebody doubting the quality of Daniel Akpeyi then I must say I can’t help, I absolutely can’t help,” said the 60-year-old.
"It’s coming out of one minute to another and taking a position in such a way, it just shows quality; it shows maturity; it’s shows grown up attitude in away
"And if somebody deserves it [support] over the last nine or 10 months then it’s Daniel Akpeyi."