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Soweto Derby stalemate as Middendorp defends Pule

Hendrick Ekstein of Kaizer Chiefs challenges Vincent Pule of Orlando Pirates during the Absa Premiership match between Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates on the 09 February 2019 at FNB Stadium Pic Sydney Mahlangu/ BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG-Kaizer Chiefs coach Ernst Middendorp downplayed Hendrick Ekstein’s mistake that cost them a Soweto Derby victory on Saturday and considers the midfielder “one of the best” he’s ever worked with.

Match Report: Pirates deny Chiefs Derby victory

Ekstein has enjoyed a substantial rise since the arrival of Middendorp in December, having started eight of Chiefs’ last 11 matches while also contributing three goals – equalling his tally over the course of the last two seasons.

However, the attacker – playing alongside George Maluleka in the central midfield, rather cheaply gave the ball away that ultimately led to Orlando Pirates finding the equaliser in the 80thminute.

He was guilty of a similar offence in Amakhosi’s CAF Confederation Cup second leg 2-1 defeat at home to ZESCO United a few weeks earlier, but Middendorp refused to cast responsibility on the 28-year-old.

“Hendrick is an outstanding player. He’s not a youngster anymore – he’s 28 if I’m not mistaken, and this is definitely somebody who can carry a team with his ideas and the stuff he’s regularly doing,” said Middendorp in Ekstein’s defence.

“But it [mistakes] happens, unfortunately. What could we do? We could have corrected it, and that’s part of the team’s work – we could have closed the space and be a bit more alert and nothing would have happened.

“It’s unfortunate that it happened but, for me, he’s an outstanding player and one of the best I’ve ever worked with.” Kickoff

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