I have to be careful because I can’t be a Sundowns Coach and celebrate draws – Coach Rulani Mokwen
Mamelodi Sundowns and Kaizer Chiefs delivered an intense spectacle of football that ended in a 1-1 draw in the MTN 8 semi final leg 1 at the FNB Stadium. Amakhosi were the first team to draw blood in the second half, Ashley Du Preez whipped in a long cross from the right side of the field to pinpoint his teammate, Edson Castilo who put one in against Ronwen Williams with a diving header. The Brazilians showed their resilience when they were trailing behind and it was only in the concluding minutes of the match that Khuliso Mudau found the back of the net with a powerful header.
The battle itself between the two sides was a closely contested affair, with both teams displaying excellent attacking football for the ninth time in MTN 8 history over the last four decades. Masandawana’s Head Coach, Rulani Mokwena provided a summary of the 90 minutes and insight into the team’s performance. He also acknowledged the fierce competition that Chiefs brought to the field and praised their efforts.
“The feeling is ofcourse like a victory and I want to congratulate the football club and the players for a very good performance, very dominant and 71% ball possession against a team like Kaizer Chiefs at FNB is not easy but we did very, very well today. I think we deserved to win, I think at the very, very least we didn’t deserve to lose. Congratulations to the players for an incredible fighting spirit and showing a big heart, fighting against all odds, getting an important result.”
The Bafana Ba Style Coach expressed his thoughts on the significance of the results and what it means for his team as they head into the second leg preparations, he said: “I have to be careful because I can’t be a Sundowns Coach and celebrate draws, I will get into big trouble. I don’t know how to feel about it, but there’s a deep sense of gratitude and appreciation for sure, maybe not for the scoreline but for the performance in its entirety and for the process of showing desire and wanting to win every single match. I think that’s still very important for us as a club and for us as a team. “
Masandawana’s captain, Themba Zwane was stretched off the field just before the halftime mark after an incident with Yusuf Maart of Chiefs. Coach Rulani also shed light on the importance of Zwane in the team’s success, emphasizing his leadership qualities and the valuable role he plays in guiding the team through challenging matches.
”Mshishi is so important, especially for two reasons on how we want to play and number two because he’s the captain, losing him was a big blow. We gotta make do with what we do, he was playing in a 10 and 9 position today.”
“What surprises me more about Mshishi’s situation is that the foul didn’t even go to us, that was the biggest thing. With a deep cut that has had him hospitalized, but the foul went against us that’s probably my biggest thing, We’ve got a FIFA break now and fortunately also with Bafana Bafana it’s friendlies, and we also want Bafana to do well and they need Mshishi and those games are important, but the health and safety of a player like Mshishi is probably more important at this stage than the performance. Hopefully he’s able to get some rest during [the international break] because with a concussion it’s for the next 10-14 days. iIt’s a little bit of some precautionary measure to give him some rest and be a bit protective and cautious.
The Brazilians Head Coach also dived deep into the injury list of players that they have at the moment, he mentioned the importance of the missing players at his disposal: “We don’t have [Abbubeker] Nassir, Peter [Shalulile], Thapelo Morena or Thapelo Maseko, so you can understand what it does [to the team].”
“Together with the technical team we did our best today to find solutions, the players grave it their best [as well as] the subs were good, [Junior] Mendieta was good, [Siyabonga] Mabena was good, Terrence Mashego was good and Lesiba nku gave us a little bit more with his legs and tried his best. [Bathusi] Aubaas was very good in a different position when we needed a little bit of his legs so we could push the line a little bit higher and press a little bit more.”