There are derbies and then there is the Soweto derby.
It has been an intensive period for Chiefs; we travelled to Rustenburg ( Sun City) to play Platinum Stars who were in third place and on a ridiculously hot day we collected our first defeat this year loosing 2-0. Nothing to complain about , we were missing three big players , the heat made it difficult for us to play our normal high tempo game and the opposition was stubborn. Add to that a miserable mistake for the opening goal and it’s no surprise that we didnt have any points in the bus with us back to Joburg. As Pirates won 4-0 in their game our next game versus Ajax Cape Town, always one of the best football teams due to their Dutch connections, became a big one.
In their infinite wisdom the club had sold our home game to allow our stadium to be used for a Lady Gaga concert!!!!! My kids were delighted, getting suite and backstage passes for the gig but the pitch took a battering and the old man took yet another trip with El loco and his bus to Polekwane. The game was poor but even first 20 but then we got in front with a well executed set play and went on to dominate things and played really well to win 3-0. Pirates drew 0-0 so we had a three point lead going into the Sowetan Derby.
Let me tell you! I have seen games all over the World but this is insane, the hype before it, the brutality and beauty during it and the 90,000 amazing supporters with their constant dancing , their outrageous clothes and constant blowing of vuvuzelas makes it both difficult to inspiring but challenging for the coaches. Not surprisingly the opening exchanges were fierce and poor quality , lots of missed passes and possibilities to counter . From one of these we went 1-0 down after 20 mins. The noise was deafening and their celebrations seemed to go on for ages and we needed to react. Yet the half had been up until then and continued to be nervy but quite even.
We changed a wide player at half time , pushed our right back really high and opened the pitch up so that our possession was better in the second half and we used the new pockets of space to launch runs behind and between their defenders.
This was more like us now and when we equalised with 20 mins left, I thought the stadium would explode, even though this was an away game we outnumbered them 55/45. Un f***ing believable!!!! . We were still not playing great but had them on the back foot and created three good chances. Then out of nowhere Benni Mcarthy had a Rooney like overhead kick scrape our bar and I think the lads started looking at the clock. One last push into extra time got us a corner which Bernard Parker headed over from 5 meters and in the last minute Tsabalala did their full back and slid one across the goals ; two of ours dived in for it missing it by a coat of paint. We would settle for a draw and still three points clear at the top, in our debrief we will talk about daring to play under pressure, reminding them of what we do when we play well, how we structure it and how our movement opens spaces that our opponents struggle to deal with.
For my personal reflections I will remember the intensity of the day, the unbelievable crowd, a few of the tackles and the happiness post match after years of living in the shadow of Pirates. Everyone could enjoy their top spot and retained the bragging rights .
I have been around enough to know that after the glass of Cape red in the evening this match will be put into the archives alongside the rest and we are not even half way there yet. I can only hope that the players do the same as we have two tricky games before the break for the African cup of Nations. That will also be a challenge for us if South Africa do well, because we will have 6 players on Bafana Bafana duty for a month and our season will restart 48 hrs after the final!!! Maybe the planners are not too optimistic, or maybe they know what they are doing? Either way it will be a challenge for us.
Go well in the winter weather and stay safe.
Förre HIF-tränaren Stuart Baxter bloggar på Alltid Fullsatt om sitt liv som coach för serieledarna Kaizer Chiefs i Sydafrika. Läs hans tidigare inlägg här!