Downs co-coach confident draws will count in the end
Sundowns stalemates no cause for panic, says Mngqithi
To some, seeing star-studded and reigning league champions Mamelodi Sundowns drawing three matches on the trot elicits a thought it’s the side’s start of a slump in form.
On the back of goalless draws against SuperSport United and Bloemfontein Celtic, Sundowns had to settle for yet another stalemate against fellow title-challengers Swallows at Lucas Moripe Stadium at the weekend.
The Tshwane giants struck first via Kermit Erasmus on the stroke of half-time before letting the Sowetans snatch the leveller, netted by substitute Musa Nyatama in the 97th minute. Downs and Swallows remain level on 27 points. The former occupy the top spot by virtue of a superior goal difference.
Do these three stalemates in a row perhaps indicate the wheels are coming off for the Brazilians? The side’s co-coach, Manqoba Mngqithi, doesn’t think so. Mngqithi sees no reason to panic, insisting that at the end these draws will count.
“I wouldn’t say it’s that stage where we have to panic and start feeling we’ve dropped big points. We were not playing against pushovers here. We played against SuperSport and they are competing up there with us,’’ said Mngqithi.
“Swallows are also up there competing with us and we played against Celtic and got an improved result because they beat us in the MTN8. We’re on the right track. Maybe one day we’d appreciate the points we got when the team wasn’t as complete as one would have loved. Not losing is still a positive for the team.’’
Against Swallows, Downs missed a number of key players such as Peter Shalulile, Ricardo Nascimento, Brian Onyango, Lyle Lakay and Rivaldo Coetzee.
The absence of Onyango and Nascimento compelled the Brazilians to use central midfielder Mothobi Mvala at centre-back, partnering with fringe Mosa Lebusa. Downs didn’t reveal the reasons behind the absence of these players.
“It's never nice to play a game without some of the players that have had more game time, [players] that are used to playing together. The quality of those players is known but that doesn’t mean the players that played today [on Saturday] didn’t perform well,’’ stated Mngqithi.
“Mothobi played very well as a centre-back, George played very well in the central midfield. The rest of the guys really applied themselves. Thapelo also played very well at right-back.’’
Mngqithi concluded by saying he thought Swallows goal shouldn’t have stood, feeling Nyatama was off-side. The Downs trainer insinuated that Swallows had also benefitted from poor officiating in their 1-all draw against Orlando Pirates the other weekend.
“I strongly believe the goal was way off-side and I was asking myself what is really happening here because they [Swallows] got away with the same murder maybe against Pirates.”