Coach Rulani Evaluates Win Against Coton Sport

Mamelodi Sundowns staged a stunning win to defeat Coton Sport City 2-1, giving them 14 points in 6 games in the CAF Champions League on Saturday night in Pretoria. A late own goal in the first half by the visitors put Masandawana in the lead as they headed into the break and Abubeker Nasir netted the second goal from a counter attack in the second half. Downs Head Coach Rulani Mokwena expressed how strenuous it was to prepare for this encounter during the international break.

” [It was] A difficult game against a good opponent. A team that even though they didn’t have much to play for they still put up a brave fight and worked really, really hard and [tried] their best to represent their people and their country. Congratulations to Mamelodi Sundowns Football Club for qualifying to the quarterfinals and congratulations to the players, the technical staff, and everybody associated with the club.”

“It’s tough, especially when you have so many internationals because you don’t have a lot of time to work on preparations but that’s why we work so hard during the training sessions that are available. As you know, we only received the Bafana Bafana players on Thursday for training. Brian [Onyango] was only back on Thursday and they couldn’t do much because they arrived almost close to midnight. That’s Thursday gone and it’s matchday -1 on Friday, we couldn’t have most of them.”

The Brazilians made hefty changes to their usual like up, with only three players from their previous encounter starting the game. Coach Rulani had high praise for his players in the evening after taking another step towards their Champions League ambitions. “It was a good performance, I thought. Really in most moments I was quite happy with a lot of the things we did on the pitch.” Said The Brazilians Coach.

“[There was] one or two things that I was not happy about and unfortunately we didn’t keep a clean sheet, but there were a lot of things that I liked. Even the individual performances were very, very good especially because some of the players hadn’t played in  a long time. But good, [I am] pleased with the result, pleased with the number of points from a very difficult group.”

“We have to use the squad that we have and we have a very good squad, with very good players who happen to be very good human beings. [It was] not easy but we are happy that we were able to play well today. I was happy with the performance today, it had some very good things and I am happy for the boys to pick up a win.”

Masandawana have had to deal with a long list of injuries over the seasons and see some of their key players sidelined in their competitions. Coach Rulani was impressed with how the players that were given a chance to play conducted themselves in positions that some were not familiar with on the night of the encounter, he said: “There were some very good performances today, I thought Reyaad Pieterse was good, the build up was clean, good decisions and very sober.”

“I thought Grant [Kekana was good] in a position that he has played in the past for SuperSport United, but it’s not a position that we’ve used him a lot in. We needed him to feature there because we had [Khuliso Mudau] Sailor out with the flu and Thapelo [Morena] with the mileage from the National team we couldn’t have him today. I thought Rushine [De Reuck] was good also, after a very long off lay. Sipho [Mbule] was good, very aggressive in the duels and that’s one of the things he has to work on, but today he was very good with his intentions and usage of the ball and Pitso was also good.”

“Neo [Maema] struggled a little bit to find the spaces but it’s also got to do with the structure of the opposition, maybe the tweak of the formation a little bit where we didn’t really play him as an 8, we played him as a double 10. I thought Haashim [Domingo] was also good, he made some good movements in the first half. He’s not one of the players that you see a lot of actions with the ball, he’s a player that gives a lot more off the ball in space creation and the possibility to find depth. Cassius [Mailula] was also good, especially in the second half, and [Abdul Boutouil] AB was good. Sometimes I don’t praise him because football is a team sport, but for a performance like that you need some very good individual performances and AB was definitely one of them.”

The Tshwane giants’ search for their second star is not far off as they sealed a place in the knockout stage of the continental competition unbeaten. The Club’s aspiration to bring back the trophy to Chloorkop has been topical for the past seasons especially with The Brazilians dominance in domestic competitions – winning the league title for a record six times, Coach Rulani showed confidence in his group to reach the goals set by the Yellow Nation.

“We are moving into a space where we have to be fair and patient with this group. It’s a group that shows lots of promise, and it’s a group that has to be given fair opportunities to be able to make their own mark, write their own history and create their own legacy in the club. I strongly believe that this team will eventually win the Champions League. When will it happen? I can’t play God, but I know that everyday we work towards this objective and we put in the work.”

Masandawana will get back into action in the DStv Premiership on Tuesday when they welcome Cape Town City at Loftus Versfeld Stadium.