The recently-completed MTN8 second leg semi-final was an incredibly interesting tactical battle between the two coaches, Stuart Baxter and Roger de Sa.
The secret to Orlando Pirates’ 1-0 first leg success was the use of a three-man central midfield (Oupa Manyisa, Lehlohonolo Masalesa and Sifiso Myeni) as it successfully overpowered Chiefs’ two-man midfield of Reneilwe Letsholonyane and Willard Katsande.
Our exclusive Soccer-Laduma stats from the game show that Bucs enjoyed a 84.9% pass completion rate compared to Chiefs' rate of 79.41%.
In the second leg, Baxter appeared to employ more of a three-man central midfield in what seemed to be an attempt to counter Bucs' anticipated three-man central midfield.
He dropped George Lebese and played more of a 4-3-3 with Katsande, Yeye and Siphiwe Tshabalala playing behind Siyabonga Nkosi (at number 10), Bernard Parker and Knowledge Musona.
Surprisingly, however, Bucs only played with two central midfielders in this contest (Manyisa and Masalesa).
This is where the contest became a ‘game of two halves’ as Chiefs dominated in the first half and Bucs in the second. We looked at our exclusive Soccer-Laduma stats to see how Chiefs came out on top in the first stanza.
HOW CHIEFS WON THE FIRST HALF...
Chiefs’ extra players centrally managed to overload and press Bucs’ two central midfielders (Manyisa and Masalesa).
First half stats for Parker, Nkosi and Shabba...
Passes made: Parker 19, Nkosi 23 and Shabba 33. The trio also won back possession nine times between them.
First half stats for Manyisa and Masalesa...
Passes made: Masalesa 14 and Manyisa 17.
Verdict – Bucs midfield weren’t able to influence the game as Chiefs successfully over-ran the centre of the park, controlled the flow of possession and took a deserved lead.
Half time score: 1-0 to Chiefs (Parker)
HOW BUCS WON THE SECOND HALF...
Roger de Sa’s introduction of Sifiso Myeni put Chiefs on the back foot. Patrick Phungwayo successfully stifled Siphiwe Tshabalala and Chiefs' switch to a 4-4-2 all contributed to Bucs' dominance in the second stanza.
The second half drop off for Parker, Nkosi and Shabba...
As Nkosi is recently back from injury, he ran out of steam quickly and with no direct replacement at number 10 on the bench, Chiefs had no attacking midfielder to replace him with.
This seemed to force Baxter to bring on Kingston Nkhatha and switch to 4-4-2. This immediately put a lot more defensive responsibility on Parker and Shabba on the flanks and Chiefs lost their extra man advantage in central midfield.
The result of this, as our stats show, is that Chiefs’ passing numbers dropped off dramatically in the second half as Bucs gained control.
Other key factors...
Patrick Phungwayo made the most passes of any player on the pitch with 55 in the 90 minutes. This forced Shabba back into defensive positions and he made just seven passes in 35 second half minutes. With Myeni causing Siboniso Gaxa problems by forcing him backwards, momentum swung in favour of Bucs.
Verdict – Bucs’ midfield largely took over after Chiefs switched back to a 4-4-2. Myeni and Phungwayo also made a huge difference. Bucs pressure paid off and they got a deserved equaliser.
Full time score: 1-1 (Lennox Bacela) and Bucs advanced on aggregate 2-1 to the MTN8 final.