The half-time team talk seemed to have made the difference as Amakhosi fought back with two goals to win the Cup tie
Following a game of two halves in which there were positives and negatives, new Kaizer Chiefs coach Gavin Hunt got his tenure off to a winning start as his side edged out Maritzburg United 2-1 in an MTN8 quarter-final clash at the FNB Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
It should be noted, before too much is read into this result, that Hunt was without a half a team of potential first-choice players (due to injury and suspension), including influential forwards Samir Nurkovic, Lebogang Manyama, Dumisani Zuma, as well as Eric Mathoho and Willard Katsande.
Leonardo Castro, meanwhile, was not fully fit and started on the bench. The former Bidvest Wits mentor also only had two-and-a-half weeks of preparation with his new players.
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Nevertheless, there were several noteworthy take-outs from the game.
“I think first half we were still in the bus,” Hunt told SuperSport after the match, in what was a great summation of Chiefs’ performance in the first 45 minutes.
It certainly was a nervy-looking Amakhosi side which took part in the opening stanza.
And the opening half couldn’t have gone much worse, although Chiefs were lucky to only be 1-0 down after the KwaZulu-Natal side had struck the bar through Bongokuhle Hlongwane not long after Thabiso Kutumela had notched the opening goal.
Going forward in attack, Chiefs looked disjointed and lacked purpose, while at the back, the home defence regularly found themselves being pulled out of shape and exposed by Maritzburg’s attackers.
It all changed after the interval, and Hunt’s two substitutes, Njabulo Blom and Castro, made a significant impact as he demonstrated his tactical nous.
There was also a substantial increase in focus and intensity from the Soweto side, likely a result of a stinging team talk at the break.
That Hunt was able to get such a reaction from his men was probably the most important point of the day. The character, fighting spirit and unity bode well for the season.
It was also crucial in terms of putting to bed last season’s bitter disappointment of losing out on the league title on the final day. Just imagine how the morale may have sunk had Amakhosi started the new season by being knocked out of the cup.
For Hunt, it was the mental fortitude his men showed which was most satisfying and he’ll be hoping that with time and more training, his side will gel and go from strength to strength as systems are implemented.
“I take mentality, attitude [from the game],” Hunt concluded. “Nothing to write home about [in terms of] prettiness. I will try instill that attitude into the team.”