Mamelodi Sundowns moved up to first place in the DStv Premier League table after they beat Marumo Gallants 1-0 at Loftus versfeld stadium on Wednesday night. Masandawana put on a thrilling display to beat the Limpopo based team, led by goals from Sphelele Mkhulise in the first half. The treble winning champions’ last appearance in the league was in September against AmaZulu FC, Downs Coach Rulani Mokwena revealed the significant of this victory on their return to domestic league competition, he said:
“Today was important for us to win because we haven’t been on the league program and everyone else has been playing, and maybe not a lot of distance was created between us and the other teams and so it was very important for us to win today. At Sundowns it’s not just to win, there’s a certain expectation on how you want to perform so that you can win. It’s always a microscopic focus on the performance, making sure that the performance is strong and good. Today we created a lot more chances especially in the first half, quietly content not overly excited, it gives you a lot of things to work on and to improve.”
“I think collectively as a team today we were good in the first half, and then I think in the second half apart from maybe Grant [Kekana] and maybe even Rushine [De Reuck], we took our foot a little bit off the paddle, we lost a little bit of dominance and we lost a bit of control. We are not a team built for that type of performance, firstly we don’t have players for that and we don’t train for that. We will analyze, check and speak to the players and find out because sometimes even maybe us as coaches we like to refresh the team and bring in fresh legs and maybe build the capacity of players like [Lebohang Maboe] Lebo, Haashim [Domingo] because we are still going to need them. It’s going to be a long season, but sometimes it is at the expense of rhythm and that is what we lost in the second half.”
The Brazilians started the game energetically with high intensity and kept consistent pressure on the visitors, in the early period as the match started it was clear to see that it would be a scramble for maximum points from both teams. Masandawana took the lead just before the half hour mark following their multiple attempts at goal, Coach Rulani gave an overview analysis of the two halves:
“I think we played very well in the first half. We were actually very, very good in the first half and a bit unfortunate to go into the half time break with 1-0. [We had] good fluidity, good movements, good organizational form and good rest defense against a very, very technical midfield. Normally they start with [Sibusiso Khumalo] Sbu, but they started with Lucky Mohomi starting as a 6. You could see they wanted to be a bit more on the ball and they caused us a lot of problems when they were on the ball, but our higher press was good with Gaston [Sirino], [Marcelo] Allende, [Themba Zwane] Mshishi and even when we got to engage [Sphelele Mkhulise] Pitso, Mothobi [Mvala] and [Teboho Mokoena] Tebza. We won a lot of balls close to the box and should’ve been a little bit more aggressive and ruthless with better decision making around the box.”
The Brazilians Coach continued to praise his squad, mentioning some of the stand out performers from the encounter: “It’s a pity Mothobi is not the type of player to play with a yellow, because then he’s on the edge and with that type of performance he deserves to probably play 90 [minutes] but the performance was very good. You know with Mothobi you get everything, you get his heart and soul, he gives everything on the pitch.
“Pitso was [also] very good today, not just on developing the play today but also with the runs into the box which is something that we’ve been a bit critical of and he took his goal very, very well. He arrived in the box at the right time but he was also involved in the build up of that goal and it was actually a typical diamond goal because it doesn’t go to the sides.”
Mamelodi Sundowns will be in action on Saturday, 22 October against Orlando Pirates in the MTN8 semi final second leg clash, the match is scheduled to take place at Peter Mokaba Stadium.