Stuart Baxter admits he has never seen Kaizer Chiefs give the ball away as much as in their flat 2-1 victory against Botswana’s Township Rollers at FNB Stadium on Saturday night.
Chiefs coach Baxter promised a much improved performance in the second leg of this preliminary round tie in Gaborone on Saturday February 28 – and Amakhosi might need it.
Botswana champions Rollers have had their confidence boosted by pushing their big southern brothers to within injury time of an away draw.
Tefu Mashamaite’s 93rd-minute header from Bernard Parker’s corner spared Chiefs’ blushes.
Matthew Rusike had put the home side ahead in the sixth minute. Boy Segolame equalised for the hard-pushing visitors in the 48th.
“Transitions and the ball changing hands is vital,” Baxter said.
“And I’ve never seen our central midfield give away the ball as often and in such poor positions as we did.
Admitting it was close to a miracle that Rollers did not score another, Baxter said: “I can’t in my life envisage us giving the ball away like that in the return game. And because of that the central defence will look a lot more stable.”
Chiefs looked like running away with the game in the opening 25 minutes. But when they could not add to Rusike’s opener, the wind went out of their sails.
“We created chances and the focus wasn’t there, so the second goal didn’t arrive,” Baxter said.
“And Rollers are too good a team to allow off the hook. Maybe that’s a bit of a South African thing – we don’t score when we play well.”
Despite an uphill battle at times, Baxter said that “in a critical phase, at the end, we got a corner and we scored. And I think that’s a goal we’ll gladly take with us to Botswana and defend it fiercely.”
Rollers’ Zimbabwean coach Madinda Ndlovu warned Chiefs his players would have gained much confidence from running the South Africans so close in their away game.
“The first few minutes my boys gave too much respect to them, probably because of the different levels we play at. Towards the end of the first half it could have been 1-1 after my top man [Segolame] missed a sitter. And that gave us confidence,” Ndlovu said.
“At the start of the second half we closed the space, didn’t let them play, and got an equaliser.
“We lacked concentration in the last minutes and conceded. But now I believe my boys know what Kaizer Chiefs is, and they will be ready for Chiefs when they come to Gaborone – make no mistake.”
Chiefs meet SuperSport United at Peter Mokaba Stadium in their next PSL match tomorrow.