Mamelodi Sundowns perfectly sealed their fifth Premier Soccer League title on Wednesday night when they played to a 0-0 draw at Loftus Versfeld against Cape Town City FC.
Masandawana stamped their authority in local football with a record-extending fifth consecutive league title following a goalless draw against The Citizens in a tightly contested affair in front of a cheerful crowd. The defending Champions required just a single point heading into the game in Tshwane to set an unassailable lead with four games to spare. Downs’ Co-Coach, Rulani Mokwena shortly addressed members of the media regarding their success in a press conference briefing after the game.
“It would be improper not to start off by congratulating the Mamelodi Sundowns football club. Congratulations to the board, to the Motsepe family, the president, senior management, backroom staff and everybody involved in this success. These types of achievement particularly because it’s the fifth one in a row can not be attributed only to one individual, but to a collective and it shows the collectiveness and the spirit that is within the club. Congratulations to the supporters, I think this one is a little bit special for them because they missed out on last season’s celebrations. To be a part of the journey this season I think is very special for them, and then congratulations also to the technical team, coach Steve Komphela, coach Manqoba Mngqithi and coach Wendell Robinson and the rest of our technical staff – our bios, conditioning coaches, our analysts, our ground staff, logistics team and everyone involved.”
“A special word of congratulations to the players, you run out of superlatives to try to describe them, what they showed today is exactly a reflection of who they are; honest, hard working and extremely diligent, a pleasure to coach. [It is] not easy to lose a Champions League game, to be so broken the way we were and then come and show this type of spirit and performance. Normally some teams would crumble after such a setback but they were strong, they showed good perseverance and [it is] this resilience that makes them so special. They’ve had a season that’s better than last season already, we are very proud of them and I’m sure the Sundowns fans are also very proud of them.”
The Brazilians secured a point to successfully defend their championship as they retained their number one spot with 58 points in the DStv Premiership with four matches left to play and 13 points ahead of second placed Royal AM . Bafana Ba Style were pressing hard for the victory but City kept their defensive lines as solid as a rock, making only a few mistakes and depriving the champions-elect of any clear cut chances. Coach Rulani gave an overall summary of the challenges that they faced in the battle against City.
“A difficult game against a very good side, Eric Tinkler’s sides are always very difficult to beat. They started with a 4-3-3 and that was very difficult sometimes to try to always be in control and in charge of the game, not just from an emotional perspective because we were a little bit shaky and in moments where we had to suffer together we suffered together, but we still created a lot of very good chances.”
“We were a little bit unfortunate, Grant Kekana had a chance inside the box, with a bit more composure we could’ve had better situations from Ralani, better situations from Neo Maema, Mshishi and Peter [Shalulile], but we pressed very well. We pressed sometimes with two [players] to try to confront that triangle with Fidele [Ambina], [Taariq] Fielies and [Nathan] Fasika, it worked a little but then they got that extra man sometimes and then we had to go with a diamond, and once we went with a diamond press we brought a little bit of security around AJ we stabilized and had a little bit more control especially closer to their box, and then we created some very good opportunities but we were just let down by a bit of anxiety.”
Masandawana were recently knocked out of the CAF Champions League competition after reaching the quarter final stage with a perfect run in the group stages. The South African Champions played to a 1-1 draw at FNB Stadium for a 3-2 aggregate score and a shocking defeat to Angola’s Petro Atletico three days ago. Coach Rulani expressed how they put that disappointment behind them to remain on course.
“It’s a difficult competition to win the Champions League, but the feeling amongst Sundowns’ family is that we could do better and we should have done better, and that only is just the reflection of the ambitions that the club has. When you’re driven by those sorts of ambitions and those sort of standards then excellence is not something to be celebrated. You try to push on but the reality also is that we do not have a God-given right to win any trophy, we’ve gotta earn it and work extremely hard and those are the lessons, and we take those with a lot of humility because we know we should’ve been in the semi-finals. We know that the type of season that we’ve had in the Champions League is a season that should’ve allowed us to fulfill the ambitions of the club.”
“If you look at the squad it’s a newer squad and with only a handful of players that have won the Champions League and that understand the terrain, but you’ve got to build that. Even for [players like] Denis [Onyango] and the squad that won it in 2016, it was a squad that won after three or four attempts, and you build the experience of playing that continental competition. But it is just a reflection of who we are and where the club wants to go, and of course when you set that type of standard where you just strive only for perfection and only to win things, of course it’s cutthroat and the demands are extremely severe in relation to the fall backs if you don’t achieve the success. That’s where the club is and the club expects that type of investment, not from a monetary perspective, but from a work ethic perspective, a commitment perspective and from a human resource perspective.”
Mamelodi Sundowns prepare for the semifinal stage of the Nedbank Cup where they will play against Royal AM in KwaZulu-Natal on Saturday, 30 April.