'AmaZulu were fresher,' moans Mngqithi

'Heavy schedule' takes toll as Sundowns draw

Sihle Ndebele Journalist
Makhehleni Makhaula of AmaZulu tackles Lebohang Maboe of Mamelodi Sundowns FC during the match between AmaZulu and Mamelodi Sundowns at Kings Park Stadium on April 21 2021.
Makhehleni Makhaula of AmaZulu tackles Lebohang Maboe of Mamelodi Sundowns FC during the match between AmaZulu and Mamelodi Sundowns at Kings Park Stadium on April 21 2021.
Image: BACKPAGEPIX/STEVE HAAG

Mamelodi Sundowns co-coach Manqoba Mngqithi feels their congested fixture programme weighed heavily on them in their goalless draw against AmaZulu at Kings Park Stadium yesterday.

The stalemate against second-placed AmaZulu saw table-topping Downs stretch their unbeaten run in the league to 21 games. The Brazilians came into this match on the back of playing 120 minutes of football in Sunday’s Nedbank Cup semifinal defeat to Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila (TTM).

Yesterday, it was Downs’ fourth game in 10 days, while AmaZulu had 11 days of no action before hosting the Brazilians.

Mngqithi is of the view that fatigue put them on the back foot in Durban, highlighting AmaZulu’s freshness.

“The truth is that they were fresher than us, if you consider they played Stellenbosch when we were playing Belouizdad. We played three matches after that. So that had an effect on the game,” Mngqithi told the media in his post-match conference.

Usuthu mentor Benni McCarthy embraced the point, praising the overall performance of both sides. “I think it’s a fair result. Both teams never really sat back. It was a good display of SA football.”

After failing a late fitness test to miss their shock defeat to TTM, Mosa Lebusa returned to the starting XI to partner Rushine de Reuck, with Ricardo Nascimento dropping to the bench.

First-choice keeper Denis Onyango also returned to the first XI after missing the TTM tie, where Ricardo Goss was in goal. The hosts also made some notable modifications to their starting XI with two of their most consistent players, Luvuyo Memela and Lehlohonolo Majoro starting off the bench.

AmaZulu showed more urgency in the first half. Usuthu used the agility of Augustine Mulenga and Thabo Qalinge to unsettle the Downs defence. However, the Durbanites hardly created clear-cut chances.

The first stanza was also a physical affair, producing a number of fouls at both ends. Referee Jelly Chavani couldn’t keep up with the tempo of the match at times. Chavani ended up issuing a yellow card to McCarthy for confronting match officials whenever decisions went against AmaZulu.

The second half was more electrifying as both teams created more scoring chances. Downs' best chances fell to the likes of Peter Shalulile and Aubrey Modiba but they couldn’t convert them. Mulenga was also guilty of missing AmaZulu’s best opportunities.

Meanwhile, Black Leopards and Stellenbosch also played to a 0-0 draw at Thohoyandou yesterday.

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