Zero to hero: Akpeyi stands tall for Chiefs

The Soweto Derby is one of those matches where players and coaches can earn respect, and so it happened for Daniel Akpeyi at Moses Mabhida Stadium.

Kaizer Chiefs overcame a strong and different Orlando Pirates side on Saturday to qualify for the Telkom Knockout semifinals after winning 4-2 on penalties thanks to the heroic performance of the Nigeria international goalkeeper.

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Akpeyi has endured so much criticism from the supporters since filling in for injured club favourite Itumeleng Khune.

His recent performances, especially against Pirates, have meant he has finally gained some trust and respect from the Amakhosi faithful, who were singing his praises after his two penalty saves helped add more woe to their biggest enemies.

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Coach Ernst Middendorp said after the match he was proud of Akpeyi for his performance and says he is showing maturity despite all the criticism.

"He's very grown up, he always performed and I think sometimes you have people who say the wall is grey and some other people for some odd reason they say no the wall is green," Middendorp said.

"I understand, he just came in to help the club with Itumeleng Khune injured, he had to improve and be better, and I think there's a certain institution who worked on these issues."

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Middendorp also recognised goalkeeper coach Lee Baxter for his work in keeping Akpeyi focused despite the noise on the outside throughout his career at Chiefs.

"Like I said, he's grown up and well experienced, and has played in the World Cup. Let's not forget the work done by the goalkeeping coach Lee Baxter, it's a result of having a well-qualified goalkeeping coach," he added.

"Despite outside criticism he's been performing and he's a very special player."

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