Experience played huge role in Sundowns clinching title
Pitso Mosimane says he always believed Mamelodi Sundowns’ experience would see them over the line as they jostled for first place with Kaizer Chiefs in the Absa Premiership.
Sundowns dislodged Chiefs from the top for the first time at the weekend to snatch the title from Amakhosi’s claws on the final day, and sending the entire Amakhosi fanbase into a momentary trance.
“Being in the bubble was a completely new experience for everyone,” Mosimane told Sowetan yesterday. “But I believed we could do it after we caught up with Chiefs’ points tally. Once we were set to play the final two matches at the same time, on the same day, I thought we had the edge.”
The Sundowns coach said he observed how other teams elsewhere in the world had struggled post lockdown, and thought SA teams would experience similar travails.
“I watched Liverpool lose games they would normally have won before the lockdown. They were helped by the fact that they had accumulated more points [to win the English Premiership]. Barcelona were top [before lockdown] of La Liga, but they struggled too. Real Madrid came through. We also couldn’t get going in the first few matches, and that applies to everyone. Chiefs suffered injuries and suspensions. They lost [Leo] Castro and [Daniel] Akpeyi. We also lost Denis Onyango and Andile Jali. [Ricardo] Nascimento was red-carded. Gaston Sirino missed the first two games because of suspension. But in the end our experience pulled [us] through. We know how to play back-to-back games… how to manage the load. That, in the end, was the main difference.”
The now five-time Premiership winner added they also had to be conscious of the deadly coronavirus.
“We did have a few cases and it was difficult because a player falls off and can’t train for some weeks. You have to wait for him to return a negative test. This virus affects the lungs and you can’t take risks.”
He admitted Chiefs came worse off in the bubble, winning only two matches against Polokwane City and Chippa United.
“We were bad in the beginning but once we got going, we were able to turn it around. Chiefs struggled even when they had more rest days, so I suspected something would happen in the end. I don’t know what their preparation is like, but we know how to play when mentally tired. We can play every three days.”
Sundowns return to work today after Mosimane had given the players some time off which included a celebration braai at their hotel base, in preparation for Saturday’s Nedbank Cup final against Bloemfontein Celtic at Orlando Stadium.
Chiefs, meanwhile, had still not said a word following the weekend’s traumatic events.
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