Mamelodi Sundowns picked up a point in their first away encounter in April after playing to a goalless draw with Swallows at Dobsonville Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
The Tshwana giants had the majority of the possession and chances but could not find a way through The Dube Birds’ defense, marking their second consecutive draw after securing the DStv Premiership title with five games in hand. The Brazilians Head Coach Rulani Mokwena was asked about the team’s performance after the stalemate in a press conference briefing, and he said:
“I am very proud of the efforts of the players [and] the spirit in the squad. The recovering of the players is so nice to see, [with the likes of Abubeker] Nasir, [Bongani] Zungu, Gaston [Sirino] after such a long time on the pitch [as well as Abdoul Boutouil] AB and Thapelo [Morena] also.”
“We have to play these games and we have to also try to make sure the squad is close to each other. [I am] very proud of the players [and] a gallant effort from the opposition.”
Coach Rulani further went on to explain the contributing factors to their unusual difficulties of not scoring goals in the two encounters: “These games are very difficult because in football you need a lot of conditions to have intensity, you need the opponent that is there as an aggressor and today we played against an opponent that is sitting and holding to a point at home.”
“You need a good pitch so that the ball moves a little bit and the pitch is a little bit dry and bumpy. We were responsible for the tempo and I think we did all that we could do. We created so many chances, we had final third entries. I think we won a lot of duels because this game is about long balls and second balls. We won almost all the duels and with aggression. There will never be a game that I will be in charge of at Sundowns and we have no aggression, believe me there’s no chance.”
Masandawana’s recent performances has led the team to deliver spectacular results and individual brilliances, in the recent international break, Downs had a total of eight players represent the South African national team and two of their foreign players were called to their national sides. Sundowns goalkeeper Ronwen Williams is coming closer to writing his name in history books as he has managed 16 clean sheets in the league this season and is edging closer to equalling former Orlando Pirates goalie Moeneeb Joseph’s record of 17.
“Keeping clean sheets is also a reflection of the team, today we defended a lot better. Even against Cape Town City I thought we defended very well from the top and then sometimes [just like] today they don’t play from the back, they go route one to the striker. Even on transition they win the ball and go to the the striker, they have Gregory Damons and Tshediso Patjie running into the channel so we had to be very, very strong in the duels [especially] one on ones, we had to be very strong on the counter pressures from the top once we lost the ball and we were very, very good.” Said Masandawana’s Coach, Rulani Mokwena.
“Individual awards are always a reflection of the collective, and as I say when we score it’s because we have a very good build up. When we defend well and when we keep clean sheets it’s because we defend very well from the top and the game is about boxes. Modern football is all about boxes, what you do on one side and what you do on the other side affects what happens on the other side. It’s always a collective effort. Congratulations to the team for those miniature types of achievements and milestones because it’s always a reflection of a collective.”
In the opening of the CAF Champions League, Bafana Ba Style handed one of their youngsters Cassius Mailula a debut against La Passe FC at Loftus Versfeld Stadium. The 21 year-old scored his first two senior goals for the Tshwane giants and has since been a stand out performer for the club in all their competitions, Coach Rulani expressed how he’s been maintaining the young talents that they’ve since introduced into the senior team.
“The young ones we give them chances, I have a different way of working with the young ones. You see them in and then immediately out and it’s only because we have a plan for these things. Sometimes society is about instant gratification and one performance for the young ones they [begin to think] ‘I’ve arrived’, you’ve got to quickly remind them that there’s still quite a long way to go.”
“They’ve got to work for these things, they’ve got to be competitive. The moment you get into sports you sign up and agree that you will compete, and that’s the first starting point of the competition. It’s to compete for a place in the team and that’s the same for all these young ones.”
Mamelodi Sundowns return to action in the DStv Premiership when they travel to Lamontville Golden Arrows on Wednesday, kick off is at 19h30.