On Saturday afternoon, Kaizer Chiefs beat Cape Town City on penalties to progress to the quarter-finals of the Telkom Knockout. A key moment in the game was the introduction of Serbian striker, Samir Nurkovic.
Having gone off with a head injury in the win against AmaZulu on the 24th of September, Nurkovic missed the wins against Baroka FC and Golden Arrows and was only on the bench against Cape Town City this weekend.
Ernst Middendorp admitted being cautious with his striker challenging for too many aerial balls, saying in his post-match interview with SuperSport:
“Samir is an exceptional player. He was out for three weeks, not really able to use his heading ability. He used it for the first time [against City]. We said he’s not going to defend set-pieces, stay away.”
However, despite not coming back to defend corners, Nurkovic was a massive handful in the air in attacking moves. After his introduction, he won seven of his 10 aerial duels. No player on the pitch won more balls in the air and Nurkovic only came on after 43 minutes.
In his 77 minutes on the pitch, including extra-time, the Serbian had four shots at goal with three hitting the target. Most impressive is that this game-changing performance came from a wide role as Leonardo Castro played centrally with the 27-year-old Serb having to sacrifice himself by playing on the flanks.
This season in the PSL, no player has won more balls in the air than Nurkovic, who is averaging 7.1 aerial duels won per 90 minutes on the pitch. Next best is Thamsanqa Gabuza with 6.9 aerial duel won.
How crucial was Nurkovic’s introduction? Can Middendorp fit Castro, Billiat and Nurkovic into the same side? Let us know by commenting below!