During their entire 2013 ÔÇô 2014 beMobile Premiere League season, league giants Mochudi Centre Chiefs conceded only 22 goals from the 30 games they played. This translates into 0.733 goals conceded per game in the entire campaign. Upfront, the Kgatleng side outscored any other side in the entire period, including the eventual champions Township Rollers and league runners’ up BDF XI. Things have however not been so good for the Kgatleng outfit in this year’s campaign. With just ten games played, the team has already conceded 11 goals, at an average of 1.10 goals per game. The total number conceded is already half the number of goals they conceded in the past season and the team has played just one third of their seasonal league fixtures.
Unlike in the past year when they could easily see off a game, Chiefs now seem more vulnerable when put under pressure. Just this past Wednesday night, with less than 10 minutes on the clock to see off their league encounter with BMC, Centre Chiefs conceded a goal. The goal, which ensured BMC shared the spoils with Magosi was seen by many, among them Rollers’ coach Madinda Ndlovu, as points dropped for Chiefs. The Kgatleng side had looked on course to claim a hard fought victory that would have seen them ascend to the second position on the log at the expense of the self same BMC. But for a second game in a row, Chiefs’ defense seemed jittery at the most crucial of times in a game and opened up when put under pressure.
During their past weekend’s Mascom Top 8 encounter with Nico United, Magosi let in three goals with just 10 minutes of the game left. The lack of high pressure game temperament and experience as well as leadership at the back is now more than ever apparent. But unlike any other problem, Chiefs’ problem is easily diagnosable. During the past campaign, the Kgatleng side boasted some of the best and most experienced defenders in the league, among them Tshepo Motlhabankwe, Arnold Chaka, Thabiso Khunwane and Kereeditse Maphane. The quartet was an ever present in the Magosi backline and formed a launch pad from which the team could play. Just in front of them, they were protected by holding midfielders Elvis Meleka and Amos Godirwang.
However, things changed at the beginning of the season as the six players were lost to Chiefs.
While both Meleka and Chaka have since returned home, Motlhabankwe and Godirwang have decamped to BMC, Khunwane to Gaborone United while Maphane has gone AWOL. Against BMC on Wednesday night, the Centre Chiefs’ coach had to play with two defensive midfielders, namely Lesego Galenamothale and Ocean Mpofu to protect the team’s vulnerable defense. Speaking in an interview shortly after seeing his team concede towards the end of the game to draw BMC, Chiefs’ coach Mike Sithole agreed that his team’s problems stem from the loss of the said players. “If you look at our team for the past season, these players were the spine of the team. Motlhabankwe and Khunwane were very versatile players and could operate anywhere in the defence and the midfield when needed. Chaka provided us the stability at the back while Meleka gave us shape and graft in the midfield,” the Chiefs coach said. “All these were quality and experienced players while providing us with much needed leadership at the back and replacing them was always going to be difficult,” Sithole conceded.
While not doubting the quality of the players at his disposal, the Centre Chiefs coach accepted that the team will continue to struggle a bit as the players are getting to know each other. “We will however continue to fight and we will see how the team plays going into the January transfer window,” he explained. Commenting on the issue, Chiefs’ Public Relations Officer (PRO), Clifford Mogomotsi blamed the leaky defence on the injuries that have plagued his team more especially in the past four games. “If you look at the games we played, you will find that we conceded most goals in the past three games. This was when most of our defenders were out injured. We are now expecting most of them to make a comeback for the next matches and we believe this issue will be resolved,” Mogomotsi opined. The Centre Chiefs PRO added that concerning the players who left club, he believes they have been fully replaced.
“Since the departure of those players, we have brought in a couple of players. These are very talented players and are of the same quality as those who left us. I believe once we have our full complement of defenders, things will get better,” the Centre Chiefs PRO concluded.