’Finals are defined by certain incidents ...’ Kaizer Chiefs' red card resulted in their demise, admits Stuart Baxter
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JOHANNESBURG - Kaizer Chiefs’ coach Stuart Baxter believes that being reduced down to 10-man after Happy Mashiane got his marching orders on the stroke of half-time resulted in his team's Caf Champions League final defeat to record holders Al Ahly.
Out a deserted Stade Mohammed V Stadium on Saturday night, Chiefs were targeting their first ever African crown in more-than-half-a-century. But they came unstuck as Al Ahly swept three goals past them to bag their record 10th continental crown.
Al Ahly’s goals from Mohamed Sherif, Mohamed Afsha and Amr El Sofia all came in the second half, having Chiefs held their nerves in the first. But they had ended the half in calamity as they were a man down after Mashiane hit an early shower.
In stoppage time, the Chiefs’ winger was late for an interception. And, as a result, he recklessly and dangerously caught the ankle of Akram Tawfik. The referee initially cautioned with a yellow card but after a VAR review, Mashiane was shown red.
And it's there and then that Baxter reckons his charges lost the game. Chiefs were caught napping defensively as Al Ahly scored three winning goals with ease, tarnishing Chiefs’ ‘solid defence', having kept 11 clean sheets in 14 matches.
“Finals are defined by certain incidents. And I think this one was affected massively by the red card,” Baxter said. “It changed the whole complexion of the tie. If we had a man on the field, it could have been interesting to see what we could do in the second half.”
Baxter added: “We needed to keep the ball longer. But the first pass out the press was too bad. Our press became short. We didn’t get the ball into the front three, the way we wanted to. But we did, strangely enough, when Khama (Billiat) came on.”
Baxter is not throwing Mashiane under the bus though. In fact, far from it. He says the match of this magnitude might have demanded more from the 23-year-old winger, and while he was second-best in crucial duels, he grew in frustration on the night.
“We went into the game with (Njabulo) Blom, 'Mshini' (Nkosingiphile Ngcobo) and Happy, and this was potentially a bridge too far for them. But they were in a good mental balance. But I think you are right; the frustration grew with Happy,” Baxter explained.
“We got him in the game in situations where you think he’s good in. And he let the ball get away from him and that frustrated him. Then he got smacked a couple of times and that frustrated him. The fact that he was chasing late in the half, that frustrated him.”
Baxter added: “All that boiled over with him and he gave an unnecessary freekick. But he’s a young lad and the frustration boiled over. I think you are right that he wanted to give back what he was getting. He’s disappointed I am sure, but he’ll learn from it.”
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