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Are Middendorp's Kaizer Chiefs wilting under pressure?

20:54 SAST 2020/01/05
Ernst Middendorp Kaizer Chiefs January 2020
Amakhosi's lead has been reduced to just four points and what's evident was that the Soweto giants are starting to feel the heat in the PSL title race

Kaizer Chiefs may have suffered only their second league defeat to SuperSport United on Saturday but there are already concerns among the fans. 

While Amakhosi still top the standings with a four-point lead, the truth is that there's still a long way to go and there are signs of a team that is starting to crack under pressure. 

Ernst Middendorp's men recorded a hard-fought 5-3 win over Bloemfontein Celtic at the start of December only to draw against Maritzburg United before going down to SuperSport United. 

Their advantage has been more than halved in less than a month and they find themselves under immense pressure to regain that lead at the top of the PSL standings.  

Mamelodi Sundowns can reduce Chiefs' four-point lead to just a single point on Tuesday as Middendorp's charges are only in action against Highlands Park on Wednesday night. 

At the start of the December, Chiefs were ahead of the defending champions in terms of both games played and points gained, but the tables are turning now and Sundowns may soon enjoy that advantage. 

Against SuperSport United, Chiefs hit the woodwork three times and failed to score on several occasions with only Ronwen Williams to beat. 

Leonardo Castro, George Maluleka and Samir Nurkovic all had chances - and it was an unusual performance from the two strikers given how deadly they have been for Chiefs thus far.    

At times, Nurkovic appeared to be frustrated by Matsatsantsa's defence, especially Clayton Daniels, who kept a close eye on him throughout the encounter. 

Lebogang Manyama, who has been the club's main creator this season, struggled to get his passes behind the SuperSport defence. 

The level of creativity was better this time around compared to the previous game against Maritzburg United, but still, the players often panicked and rushed things whenever they got into the final third. 

Composure is what helped them finish the first half the season at the summit of the PSL log, but if they are failing to get that right in the second round then the chances of them winning the league are minimal.

Yes, Chiefs did well to be they are after 15 games, but there are still 15 more games to play and they have to maintain the same intensity until May.

Conceding first had never been a problem to Chiefs this season until against Phunya Sele Sele, where they really soldiered on and turned a 3-2 deficit into a 5-3 win at the end of 90 minutes, thanks to a much-improved second performance. 

However, the frustration and pressure are starting to build-up as too many teams appear to have studied how Chiefs play. 

Their front three and at times front four of Billiat, Castro, Manyama and Nurkovic are slowly being found out, and that's the reason Chiefs managed to score just seven goals in their last three games and just two in the two matches they failed to win.  

Middendorp said in his post-match interview on Saturday that he wasn't too worried about his team's performance and lamented his defence which he felt let Chiefs down, and he had every right to criticise his back four. 

In fact, this is an issue he should have addressed a long time ago but it wasn't too exposed in the first 14 matches as the Glamour Boys were scoring more than their opponents. 

He missed someone like Willard Katsande and Kearyn Baccus to protect his defence as Maluleka looked too comfortable going forward and did little to drift back and assist when Chiefs didn't have the ball. 

Granted that Matsatsantsa are a tough opponent for any club in the top-flight, and they're a good enough side to win the championship but if Chiefs are going to drop points against top teams then they will be making life very difficult for themselves.  

If Chiefs are not careful, the wheels will soon come off and those who backed Middendorp could turn against him.