Champs playing as a team again
For Mamelodi Sundowns, the key to winning the Telkom Knockout competition might just lie in making the most out of adversity.
Just when everyone was ready to write them off as contenders after back-to-back defeats, Sundowns on Friday night rose to the occasion and kicked Thanda Royal Zulu off the lucrative competition via a 3-1 score line. Also counting in the Premiership champions' favour on the night was that striker and "Man of the Match" Lerato Chabangu's long distant shots, for a change, were on target.
What Sundowns learnt from their losses, according to coach Gordon Igesund, was the importance of playing as a team. Starving the opposition of space to initiate build-ups also characterised the hosts' game, as Esrom Nyandoro and Oscar Ntwagae went about frustrating Serge Djiehoua and Bernard Parker .
"The last couple of games revealed how we often go on the offensive and forget our defensive responsibilities. In the Arrows game for instance, we gave them far too much room to build their attacks, and they punished us. I'm not talking only about defensive players, but midfielders and the strikers too. Fortunately in this game we organised ourselves quickly and did everything from upfront," Igesund said.
Igesund must also be pleased that Peter Ndlovu, who scored the Brazilians' third goal early in the second half, has of late been finding the back of the net.
Thanda coach Roger Palmgren had no problem showering Sundowns with praise. "They played very well and deserved to win. As for my team, we made too many mistakes that cost us dearly. They actually finished with us three minutes into the second half when we assisted their third goal.
"When Djiehuoa scored, we felt we could come back but it was not meant to be," Palmgren said. He said he felt encouraged because his team did create chances and could score if luck had been on their side.
That third goal deflated the visiting team, who then resorted to wild long range efforts as Ryan Botha and Clement Mazibuko tried to catch Brian Baloyi napping, but who was wide awake and nipped these attempts in the bud.