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COMMENT: Middendorp's Billiat criticism only hurts Kaizer Chiefs

12:13 PM WAT 15/09/2019
Khama Billiat Kaizer Chiefs August 2019
The Amakhosi coach should look at how he manages his big-name players such as the Zimbabwean talisman for the club to succeed this season

Kaizer Chiefs suffered their first defeat of the 2019/20 season to Polokwane City, thanks to a first-half penalty goal by captain Jabulani Maluleke. 

Ernst Middendorp admitted after the game it was not his team's day as they couldn't beat goalkeeper Cyril Chibwe throughout the 90 minutes. 

Chibwe has now gone 270 minutes of football without conceding a goal in the league, but what was evident is how Chiefs failed to put a string of passes together in the final third. 

Lebogang Manyama, Samir Nurkovic and Lazarous Kambole didn't come to the party on the night despite playing together in the previous four league games for Chiefs. 

It was clear the quartet missed Khama Billiat, who was only introduced at the start of the second half against Rise and Shine. 

Billiat may have not opened his goalscoring account for Chiefs this term, but he remains an integral member of this Amakhosi team, and his absence really hurt the team. 

And a finger can only be pointed at Middendorp for benching the player even on the back of a performance which saw Billiat help Zimbabwe edge out Somalia in a Fifa World Cup qualifier in midweek.

Earlier in the week, Middendorp had expressed his dissatisfaction at the way the 28-year-old left the Amakhosi camp to link up with his national team teammates after being called up very late by head coach Joey Antipas in an attempt to spare Warriors the blushes against Somalia.     

The German mentor's decision to leave Billiat out of his starting line-up clearly backfired. 

From a distance, this didn't look like a tactical approach to try and win the match from the bench but it looked like a punishment on Billiat. Perhaps, he was trying to prove a point no one is bigger than the club. 

One cannot overlook the influence of Billiat to this current Amakhosi squad which is on the road to recovery after finishing ninth on the log last season. 

There was no synergy upfront - Manyama played too wide while Kambole looked lost behind Nurkovic until he was taken to the side to try and make those telling runs into the Polokwane City box. 

Nurkovic wasn't himself as he was tightly marked and had no supply for the better part of the game - this left him frustrated and fans saw a side of him, which if he continues to make public, could be his downfall.  

The striker was fortunate to finish the game as there were instances where he should have been sent off - and the frustration was written all over his face. He became too physical, lost possession cheaply upfront but that was because there was a missing puzzle piece upfront which was Billiat. When he came on he sparked Chiefs to life and came close to scoring on a number of occasions. 

It was clear in the second half Polokwane City wanted to stop Billiat and this is how the likes of Nurkovic and Manyama have shone this season because the majority of defenders tend to give them too much room while giving Billiat too much respect.   

As we saw on Saturday, Middendorp's Billiat criticism didn't only hurt the player but the entire team. His Chiefs teammates appreciate Billiat's hard work and know he can win any football match on his own.