Baxter: Shabba’s our Totti or Messi

Premiership

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Going into Sunday’s match against Ajax Cape Town, Baxter had only one of the club’s four senior strikers at his disposal, Siphelele Mthembu.

This followed an ankle injury picked up by Bernard Parker in training late last week, while Zimbabwean marksman Kingston Nkhatha was ruled out through illness, with Baxter saying: “We get to training (on Saturday), the boys come in, and Kingston has got a massive fever, with all sorts of symptoms. We have to get him away from the rest of the boys and get him off to hospital.”

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Instead of giving a rare start to Mthembu, Baxter placed his confidence in Tshabalala, who went on to be named Man of the Match as Chiefs ran out 1-0 winners over the Urban Warriors. The Englishman felt his faith was justified, going on to heap praise upon Tshabalala.

“I have to say, the little man [Tshabalala] was magnificent. People that question his work rate, his fitness or desire or appetite, I thought they should take a look at that, he’s tremendous.

“We played with Shabba as false nine. It was a different way of playing, with Shabba dropping out and getting runs going in behind him, and him spinning away. It’s different, and more difficult. So if we had lost 3-0, I would have had Siphelele knocking on my door and saying ‘what the hell are you doing, you don’t know anything about football’. But we got the result and he’s as pleased as everybody.”

Asked whether Tshabalala could be playing more frequently in the so-called ‘false 9’ role, Baxter replied: “It depends on the situation, but Shabba has got everything. I mean if you watch Roma play, if you watch Totti in false 9, or when Messi plays false 9 for Barcelona. Now I’m talking big teams and big players. But I think Shabba in this league is a big player, so it isn’t impossible you could play him. It depends though on the players around him and the movement.”

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