Mamelodi Sundowns dropped points in the DStv Premiership after being held to a 2-2 draw by SuperSport United on Wednesday evening in Tshwane. The visitors had the better chances early on in the contest, hitting the woodwork before Masandawana could find their groove in the dramatic Tshwane derby. Bafana Ba Style’s co-coach Rulani Mokwena shared his perspective of the game in a media briefing after the encounter.
“First it’s just to be gracious and congratulate SuperSport United and Coach Kaitano Tembo for staying in the game and fighting it through as well as getting a point. We can’t fault the players for trying, the effort was there on the pitch, they ran hard and they gave a good account for themselves, but unfortunately it wasn’t to be. We take the point and we move on.”
Coach Rulani continued and expressed his dissatisfaction with the team’s performance on the evening and said: “For me I just feel like we played far too quick from the start, the range of our passes was far too huge, normally we are 5, 10 or even 12 metre passing team but today we had far too many longer passes. Those passes stretch the lines of the team, when you have the lines of the team stretched it means you compromise your defensive structure and it becomes a little bit too difficult to have a feeling of control or dominance on the pitch. [I don’t have] a good feeling about the match, we will analyze, try to correct and try to give a better account of ourselves, we have to get up and dust ourselves off.”
The Brazilians’ excellent record of 10 successive clean sheets came to an end in the second half of the clash with two goals going past Ugandan international goalie Denis Onyango. Masandawana’s number one goalkeeper made seven league appearances and handed the defending champions a new record of clean sheets in the DStv premiership before coming into the meeting with Matsatsantsa, it is for this reason that Coach Rulani continues to be proud of Onyango despite the two goals that Downs conceded on the night.
“Football is a game of mistakes and unfortunately when you are a goalkeeper, there is the understanding that your mistakes might be more costly than many of the other players that are on the pitch, but the reality is that Denis is a top goalkeeper and as they say ‘One swallow doesn’t make a summer’. He has got our support, we will show the corrections and analyze the game like we always do even when we win. We try to get the lessons and try to improve and even in a difficult moment just like today, we will still do our corrections and analyze with everybody and not just for Denis.”
“I know that the state of football says that when you make mistakes you become the scapegoat, so we have to refrain from that because how many other times has he helped us? When we’ve been talking about all these clean sheets and the records that we were setting, a lot of it had a lot to do with Denis, let’s not be quick to forget, [rather] let’s appreciate, let’s love our players and appreciate our players in good and bad moments.”
Even though Masandawana have dropped four points in their last two encounters they remain seated on the top spot with a six point gap between them and Stellenbosch who are positioned second in the league. Coach Rulani advised on collecting points and focusing on playing games as they come and not getting off track as the season is far from over.
“We have not targeted a certain number of points, we have our own processes where we have divided the calendar into certain blocks. We start now with the third block, which is a new group of five games which we have to participate in and it’s a difficult group of five games and we have a certain target for that but for us it’s just game by game. There’s so much work that still needs to be done, the season is so long. It’s very easy to lose sight and start counting your chickens before the eggs hatch, so we just work step by step and game by game.”
Masandawana’s formation in the match saw Andile being deployed as an anchor in Downs defensive structures and playing deeper than usual as United attempted to penetrate the well organized defense. Coach Rulani thoroughly explained Jali’s role and how it matched United’s attacking plans. “SuperSport play with a 4-4-2, when you have two strikers sitting on top of your two center backs then you need to create some form of superiority. AJ did that very well for us through the half spaces and sometimes through the central corridors, but that’s not 100% how we want to play every single match. We’ve got what I always call ‘tactical culture’ and that culture means that the game principles and schemes are always the same and just adopted in relation to the opposition’s high press.” said Coach Rulani.
Bafana Ba Style’s star studded squad continues to shine on and leave a mark with each game played. Once again it was the young players in The Brazilias’ camp that showed resolution and dedication, Haashim Domingo and Neo Maema have become the names that are almost impossible not to mention during and after match days. Domingo and Maema have been scooping the man of the match accolade in the DStv Premiership for their outstanding performances and Coach Rulani shed light on the two players’ performances and roles in the team.
“[With Haashim] It depends on the responsibility, generally with his upbringing he has always been a player that plays a little bit closer towards the goal, and therefore with that in mind you would think that assists in goals are very important contributions for him in a match, but the role that he plays is a little bit more different to where he’s got to be. [He plays] a little bit deeper to construct the attack and he’s got different responsibilities, [therefore] it becomes difficult for him to be in and around the box. We are very happy with his contribution, his intensity, his usage of the ball, and his ability to develop the play from deeper positions. He will still grow, he’s extremely talented and the one good thing [about him] is his humility and his coachability.”
[“With Maema] He comes in with the dynamism and the ability to use the left foot very well. He’s got a lot of confidence to strike the ball from range, he’s also learning a lot of new things, it was good to see the ball that he played for the assist, with that dink over the top which is something that we’ve been working hard on. He’s young, energetic, dynamic and he works very hard on the pitch and he’s a very exciting player that’s giving his heart and soul to Mamelodi Sundowns and I’m sure that the supporters are very happy with his performances. The challenge now is for him to find consistency and to be able to continue contributing towards the goals whether it’s through assists or through goals scored. So far so good, the mentorship that he receives from people like Themba Zwane and Sibusiso Vilakazi is very important, they assist and guide him.”