The first game of the season is always difficult – Coach Rulani Mokwena

Goals from Peter Shalulile and Lucas Ribeiro ensure that Downs secured three points on opening night as they overcame Sekhukhune United on Friday evening at the Peter Mokaba Stadium.

In an up and down encounter, Masandawana held their nerve despite going down to 10 men to withstand the Sekhukhune fightback to register their first win of the new season. Speaking after the match, Head Coach Rulani Mokwena assessed the result: 

“The first game of the season is always difficult, there are still a few cobwebs, there is still a bit of anxiety, we also don’t know so much about the opposition, it’s difficult without proper information to do the due diligence that we normally do.”

“The boys were very brave and put in a very good shift with a new formation and a couple of new schemes – with a couple of new players. It’s a good base, we can only improve and get better from here.”

The game took a turn in the early stages when Vuyisile Mncube picked a red card for a dangerous tackle on Teboho Mokoena. With Babinka Noko down to 10 men, Downs picked up the tempo and started creating chances in search of a second. Coach Rulani reflected on how this impacted the teams performance and approach:

“I thought we did will in some moments, of course with it being the first game we still have to work on our cohesion and fluidity, it’s not going to come in the first game. It’s about four or five games to build the momentum, but whilst your are doing that [it’s important] that you still have moments of dominance and that you win games.”

The Brazilians got their second of the game after some excellent pressing from Debutant Thapelo Maseko, who chased down a ball, forced and error and eventually tee’d up fellow debutant Lucas Ribeiro to score from close range. Coach Rulani expressed his delight with Maseko as well as the contributions of the other new players: 

“This is why we brought him on, he gives the team something that we didn’t have last season, a lot of work was done to strengthen the squad with transfers. At the end of last season I said we won’t do too much business, there will be five players coming in and we’ve got our five now. We will settle a bit and try improve the team. [The new players] need time.”

Midfielder Rivaldo Coetzee returned to the fray after a long injury lay off and Coach Rulani was pleased with his showing on the night, despite the midfielder picking up a late red card.

“We wanted to try to do something a little bit different, to try to create superiorities on the pitch and free up certain players in situations where we can take advantage of their quality.” 

“And we’ve got different ways of trying to do that and creating overloads but one of them who is going to be important is Rivaldo but ja as you say it’s a team effort and it’s a pity that a very good performance like that it’s a little bit dampened by the retaliation for the red card.”

The action will come thick and fast and The Brazilians will make their way back home to gear up for their next match against rivals Kaizer Chiefs.

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