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Middendorp lauds 'fantastic' Akpeyi as Chiefs switch gears to Nedbank Cup

With regular number one Itumeleng Khune back and fit, some quarters of supporters have called for the Bafana Bafana goalkeeper to start matches ahead of his Nigerian counterpart.

FILE: Kaizer Chiefs goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi. Picture: @KaizerChiefs/Twitter.

JOHANNESBURG - Ernst Middendorp has backed Daniel Akpeyi following criticism of the Kaizer Chiefs goalkeeper in the wake of the defeat to Maritzburg United in the Absa Premiership.

A defensive mix-up saw Akpeyi concede a crucial goal for the visitors at FNB Stadium on Saturday as Chiefs lost 2-1 and saw their lead in the title race cut down to seven points.

With regular number one, Itumeleng Khune, back and fit, some quarters of supporters have called for the Bafana Bafana goalkeeper to start matches ahead of his Nigerian counterpart.

But Middendorp has sought to calm talk of a possible goalkeeper change as he lauded Akpeyi’s form throughout the campaign.

“Our supporters at Kaizer Chiefs are very intelligent, very smart,” Middendorp said at a media day at Kaizer Chiefs Village on Wednesday.

“They do not get carried away just because there was a little mistake and we conceded from our defensive work. We have seen a fantastic Daniel Akpeyi over months, rescuing us in the final stage, saving a penalty.

"He was a player of the month [in September and October] and what we have seen over several months… please guys, everybody who observes Kaizer Chiefs and is following us know exactly what a goalkeeper like Daniel Akpeyi has done here during the run of the season. And there is no way at this moment for me, for us, for each and every person in this Chiefs family, to be ignoring it.”

Khune will be in goal for Chiefs when they take on Highlands Park in the Nedbank Cup on Saturday afternoon, having done the same in the previous round against Royal Eagles.

Ahead of the clash, Middendorp has confirmed that he will select Daniel Cardoso, Lebogang Manyama and Reeve Frosler despite all three having accumulated three yellow cards and now being in danger of missing Chiefs’ next game, the Soweto Derby against Orlando Pirates on 29 February.

“They will all be on the field,” Middendorp said. “That is not the structure… but it is highlighted, it’s very important for each and everybody. I think every referee will know which players (are on three yellows) and if not, I can highlight it again. It’s Reeve Frosler, it’s Daniel Cardoso and it’s Lebogang Manyama. All three on third yellow cards and very important. They should behave. They should do their normal job.

"We have said it very clear, our next performance is our most important one and that is on Saturday, 27 February, and nothing else. I’m not jangling around, left and right, protecting and hoping, whatever… no”.