Mkalipa could lock Downs

REAL DUEL: Platinum Stars defender Joseph Mkalipa. page 34, sow 15/05/08.
REAL DUEL: Platinum Stars defender Joseph Mkalipa. page 34, sow 15/05/08.

Linda Moreotsene

Linda Moreotsene

Like most of his teammates, Platinum Stars left-back Joseph Mkalipa is not a household name.

But when the 27-year-old defender from Bethal, Mpumalanga, walks onto the field tonight to face Mamelodi Sundowns, his handling of Josta Dladla's trickery might just determine whether his team cements their top eight position.

Downs are aiming for a top three finish on the log and, make no mistake, their failure to get into the mini-league of the Champions League two years in a row is something they need to atone for, in the eyes of both fans and club president Patrice Motsepe.

The beauty of Sundowns is that they have a variety of players who can be called upon to step up to the plate and change the course of events during sticky moments.

For instance, while the opposition might be watching Lerato Chabangu and Peter Ndlovu, Esrom Nyandoro can stun them, as he did with his goal against AmaZulu that propelled Downs to the final of the Nedbank Cup.

Brent Carelse might be lurking, as he did when he put two past SuperSport United in the Tshwane derby last month, and the hard working Jorge Acuna can always be depended on to keep order in the middle of the park.

Stars, meanwhile, are no pushovers, so all this bodes well for tonight's match, as each coach tries to outsmart the other.

In addition to Mkalipa, Stars will need Hareaipha Marumo, Stanley Kgatla and Edward Williams in top form tonight.

But coach Miguel Gamondi has questioned the reasoning behind the scheduling of league matches within days of a team's participation in a demanding continental competition.

"The players need to rest. Imagine how it feels, playing a side like Sundowns right after a grueling trip to Egypt! I feel like the league can be more supportive to teams that are playing on the continent.

"We also had Ajax a couple of days before Reunion, but we will still go out there against Downs and do our best," said Gamondi.