Kaizer Chiefs coach Ernst Middendorp looked to have taken a gamble with his decision to hand a start to one of his players that ultimately came at a huge cost.
Chiefs suffered a second-round exit from the Nedbank Cup at the hands of Highlands Park at Makhulong Stadium on Saturday, as they succumbed in the penalty shootout.
This has caused some panic amongst the Amakhosi faithful, who fear the team are showing signs of crumbling under pressure after they also faltered in their league clash at home to Maritzburg United last weekend, which could still prove to be a costly slip in the title race.
But some questions were asked of Middendorp’s decision to start with new signing Anthony Akumu ahead of George Maluleka in the weekend’s crucial cup encounter, with the Kenyan failing to make any real impact.
With the team having struggled to establish a foothold on the game, he then made way for Maluleka at half-time and the latter delivered the free-kick that led to Highlands scoring an own-goal to keep the Soweto giants in the game.
The German later explained that Akumu has yet to find his rhythm in the team and therefore cannot be judged based on his limited contribution.
“It’s very difficult for him and for all of us, he comes in, there’s no pre-season or anything and we tried to give him the first start, and good,” said Middendorp after the match.
“It was difficult and it’s not for assessing in the moment. The understanding with his teammates is of course not there, and not really knowing which direction we wanted to see out of his position.
“But there’s nothing to assess after only 45 minutes, it’s definitely not fair.”