The Nigerian shot-stopper, Daniel Akpeyi, has won the hearts of his doubters in the South African football league.
Itumeleng Khune is arguably the best goalkeeper in South Africa after making a name for himself for 13 consecutive Premier Soccer League (PSL) seasons. However, there is a new star goalkeeper in town – Daniel Akpeyi.
After a difficult start to his career at Chiefs, the Nigerian shot-stopper appears to have settled down and his performances over the past few weeks have certainly earned him the right to be the club’s No.1.
The difference between now and when he first arrived is that Akpeyi is able to communicate more and makes more important saves than ever.
His reflexes and positioning have improved, probably because he’s more relaxed now that he has the backing of the majority of Amakhosi fans.
With Khune currently struggling with injuries, Ernst Middendorp has no option but to field the Nigerian goalkeeper.
The German coach showed faith in Akpeyi from the first day he arrived from Chippa United, probably because the pair worked together at the Port Elizabeth-based side.
Middendorp knew Akpeyi’s qualities before those who gave him a torrid time from afar could see them.
Amakhosi fans started falling in love with Akpeyi when Khune had to be substituted during the team’s 1-0 over Baroka in the league.
On the day, Akpeyi came on after 26 minutes but went on to win the man of the match award at the end of the encounter.
However, there were those who still doubted he could offer more for Chiefs, but seeing him do what he did in the Telkom Knockout Cup match against Cape Town City really silenced the critics.
Just like Khune, Akpeyi is able to stop penalties – and this was evident against Cape Town City last weekend.
But before then, he rescued a point for Chiefs when he denied Bradley Grobler from the spot deep into stoppage time in the 1-1 draw earlier this season.
With Chiefs preparing to face Mamelodi Sundowns on Sunday, fans head into the encounter with a renewed sense of belief knowing that they are covered in the goalkeeping department.
Some have already forgotten the name Khune as Akpeyi has dazzled them with his brilliance between the posts.
Akpeyi knew, and still knows, that he has the big boots of Khune to fill, but lately, he hasn’t tried to put himself under unnecessary pressure by trying to be Mzansi’s No.1.
His work ethic is second to none, and this alone should give Chiefs optimism ahead of the match against Sundowns, where a draw may be enough to see the Soweto giants win the Q1-Innovation prize.