We Expected That It Was Not Going To Be Easy – Coach Manqoba Mngqithi

Mamelodi Sundowns picked up where they left off in the DStv Premiership with a 1-0 away win against Lamontville Golden Arrows on Tuesday afternoon in KwaZulu-Natal. The two sides were always going to deliver an eye-catching spectacle, Arrows had not recorded any defeat playing at home this season and Downs were on an unbeaten run that raised the stakes for the afternoon’s encounter.

The Brazilian’s had a quick turnaround following their arrival home from CAF Champions League duty in Congo on Sunday, with only a day to prepare for the domestic encounter at the Sugar Ray Xulu stadium. Downs’ co-coach Manqoba Mngqithi admitted that their opposition posed a threat as they had the time to prepare for the game.

“I think it was a very [fair] match, we expected that it was not going to be easy. I think they have not played in the past 14 days if I am not mistaken, that has given them a little bit of latitude to recoup and prepare.”

“They started with the team that we anticipated that played against Sekhukhune, they were much sharper and much faster on every duel, but we expected that. What made the situation a little bit more difficult was that the pitch did not allow us to play our normal football, which could have helped us maybe to take the steam away from them by keeping possession. Unfortunately because the conditions were not always very good we made a lot of mistakes technically which exposed us to alot of counter attacks and we know how dangerous they can be on counter-attacks, but overall I believe the boys worked very hard, it’s a game that needed that, they gave a very good account of themselves and one must be grateful.”

Masandawana’s resilience against Arrows finally paved the way for them to open the scoring with Gaston Sirino giving the lead to the champions in the second half with a well-placed finish. Abafana Bes’thende were awarded a penalty after their player was fouled in the box, but the hosts failed to equalize from the spot. Forward Sibusiso Vilakazi had been brought down in the opposition box in a similar fashion earlier on but the foul was not awarded.

“Sometimes we just need to give the referees the benefit of the doubt in some of these decisions that they take, for me I thought it was a very soft penalty that was called. When I look at it compared to what happened in the first half against Vila, I thought Vila’s one was a little bit more serious but I would not want to dwell much on such decisions, because we as the coaches make our own mistakes in our organisations and in setting up the team and they must also be allowed one or two mistakes here and there. One is happy that even with that penalty we still managed to keep a clean sheet and Denis [Onyango] was strong in goals and we are very happy with that outcome.” said coach Mnaqoba.

Adding to their impressive clean sheets was a spectacular performance by Bafana Ba Style full-back Khuliso Mudau who returned to the starting line up on Sunday in the CAF Champions League. Mudau was awarded with the DStv Man of the match accolade in the thrilling clash against Arrows. Coach Manqoba acknowledged the 26-year old defender’s performance: “When he was coming out, myself and coach Wendell [Robinson] did say that he’s probably the man of the match. He had an outstanding performance on the day, he’s growing in leaps and bounds, we are happy as a group because we want this competition between him and Thapelo [Morena] to stay strong because it’s good for us to always have two people that can always give a very good account of themselves. We are happy with how Mudau is coming up and hopefully he can be a little bit more consistent in his performances because he’s going to help us a lot. We believed that he deserved the man of the match award because he worked very hard.”

Mamelodi Sundowns come up against AS Maniema Union on Sunday in the second leg of the CAF Champions League Preliminary round at Loftus Versfeld, kick off is 16h00.