Without Simphiwe Tshabalala, Bernand Parker and Knowledge Musona through injuries, Chiefs brought in Willard Katsande replacing Simphiwe Tshabalala, Katlego Mphela and Kingston Nkhatha to the starting line-up.
The match needed 18 kicks from the penalty spot to decide the winner after the 0-0 fulltime stalemate. Let us say, 19 kicks, as George Maluleka missed the regulation time penalty that was awarded to George Lebese when Rooi Mahamutsa felled him wide on the right. Maluleka had to hit the same spot twice, the left top corner of the cross bar.
Chiefs controlled the first half, while Pirates displayed a very mature brand of football. If that match was anything to go by, the local game grew by leaps and bounds. The passing, ball control and decision making was excellent.
Both teams took particular shapes and each unit engaging the opposite in direct confrontation and combat seen in the 2014 Brazil Fifa World Cup. The ball moved from the back into the midfield and passed through to the final third. The players showed a lot of trust in their teammate’s abilities by passing and supporting the player in case they needed an outlet to pass the ball.
To match the daring passing, the ball control surpassed the expectation as the midfield battles saw players turned and ran with the ball in a congested area looking for spaces in the attacking third. This exhibition by both teams excited the crowds and coaches alike; however, the conclusion of the attacks never matched the moves from behind through the preparation zone.
The wing play and penetration into the final third became the point of weakness of the whole match by both teams. The ball was never played wide often enough, and in rare moment that the ball was played to crossing areas, it was done very late with defenders already in good defending areas.
The Chiefs defence kept their line and shape and easily thwarted each attack from Pirates. Given that it is the beginning of the season, defensive and midfield work takes priority, as much as physical conditioning. The teams showed exceptional quick passing and ball control skills. The interception by both sets of defenders proved sharp enough as they blocked each other’s attack completely restricting the entire match to less than 3 shots on target for each team.
One hopes that the Zimbabwean football fraternity watched and took notes of how the game should be played. There is no need to photocopy the whole match, but the concept of the game should fundamentally be followed. Highlanders, How Mine, Dynamos and Caps United of the Castle Lager Premier League played a close resemblance of the game.
Pirates and Chiefs did not play the way the Dutch or Germany played, but it showed they followed the modern trends of the game. If the rest of the ABSA Premier League teams and the National First Division follow the same pattern, the South African football can be said to have come of age. One hopes that it only gets better.