Kaizer Chiefs coach Ernst Middendorp said a tight schedule cost his team as they were knocked out of the Caf Confederation Cup after losing 2-1 (and 5-2 on aggregate) to Zambian champions Zesco United at FNB Stadium on Saturday night.
Amakhosi were sluggish but still gave the Zambians a run for their money.
They were dealt a blow when Zesco took the lead against the run of play 10 minutes into the game as keeper Virgil Vries was cought flatfooted by a long-range shot from Jesse Were.
Were was again on target 20 min to the end and Khama Billiat’s 93rd-minute goal was too little, too late.
Middendorp admitted that Zesco were the better side: “It was not only tonight … it is a well-deserved qualification for Zesco. They didn’t make any mistakes in defence. And they take their chances up front.”
He admitted that the little time his team had to prepare before these games had taken its toll.
“…In the first [Confederation Cup] game in Ndola, three games before we had an intensive game against the league leaders here [Bidvest Wits]. We did well at Wits and won that game.
“And for the return leg, three days before we had to play another intensive game in Durban [against AmaZulu]. The performance there may not have been the same but … the weather made it heavy and created a field where you had to work hard.
“In both cases, if you take the players… for example [Pule] Ekstein against Wits and AmaZulu he made 2 300m intensive sprints. Today I estimate 900m.
“It’s not excuses but I am mentioning the facts which will help clear why certain players are making mistakes they [didn’t] in the previous match,” explained Middendorp.
The mentor called on better fixture scheduling if local teams are to be expected to make a mark in continental football.
“If we want our teams to be successful in continental football we need to give them at least a week to have preparation time so they can be fresh and ready.”
Amakhosi’s next match is a Nedbank Cup tie against ABC Mosepe League side Tornado FC in the Eastern Cape on Sunday.