Chiefs edged The Team of Choice 1-0 in their Absa Premiership encounter at the FNB Stadium on Saturday evening, thanks to a lone strike in the second half by Dumisani Zuma.
Their first half display, however, led to Zulu being withdrawn just 25 minutes into his seventh league start of the season, as Willard Katsande got his first minutes since coming on as a second-half substitute in the Soweto Derby stalemate with Orlando Pirates last month.
With plenty of eyebrows having been raised for what was seen as a ‘wasted sub’, the German tactician has since explained his thinking behind the move.
“Polokwane City; Cape Town City; Mamelodi Sundowns; Orlando Pirates … [Against these teams] we can talk about our first-half dominance and chances created – I don’t know how many,” said Middendorp.
“To be honest, I really think we’ve had some excellent games against all these teams we’ve played against but, in the end, what was the outcome?
“So, we said, ‘Okay, let’s do it a bit different’, but I wasn’t prepared to wait [to make a change]. I thought we were out of it and after 18 minutes it was clear to me – we needed a winning roll and a bulldozer with a winning mentality in the 18-yard area for the long balls.
“So, simple-easy, it was about the result and to stop an easy passage through the centre, where the late runs were coming but no tracking or ball-winning mentality. That’s what it was [that prompted the sub].”
Middendorp stressed that he had learnt his lesson of making excuses after the match and wanted to avoid a potential match-costing issue by bringing on someone like Katsande.
“How often have I been sitting in this position saying, ‘Oh, man. We played 1-1’ or ‘Oh, man. We lost’ – even against Sundowns, how was it possible with this performance?
“Against Cape Town City we should have been 5-0 up at half-time but we then lost 1-0 in the end [laughs]. I know exactly what’s being spoken about.
“But in a certain moment we really sat down and decided to take the player [off] because we needed a certain winning mentality in the centre of the midfield, so we did it [subbed Zulu],” he concluded.