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Johannesburg – Mamelodi Sundowns boss Johan Neeskens lauded his struggling side after they advanced to the final of the Telkom Knockout, beating Pretoria rivals SuperSport United 1-0 in Polokwane on Saturday evening.
A rare Eleazar Rodgers goal in the first half sealed the victory for the Brazilians, who have had a disappointing start to their league campaign, languishing in last place in the table.
“I think we saw an exciting game with two teams that are very competitive,” Neeskens said.
“It is not normal to be where we are in the league. In a lot of games we didn't play badly, but we were unlucky by making silly mistakes.
“Overall, I must give my team a big compliment because I thought they deserved the win.”
Neeskens added that United were difficult to break down, but his outfit managed a good first half, while holding on in the second period to grind out a solid performance, which could spark a turnaround in their Premiership form.
“I thought we had the better of the game in the first half, with a lot of opportunities to score goals,” he said.
“In the second half they (SuperSport) put in more players up front, so in the last 25 minutes it was difficult to defend.
“We played against this team that have only lost once in the league, so I think this is a terrific result and it will give everybody a big boost.”
Meanwhile, Matsatsantsa coach Gavin Hunt criticised the referee for not awarding what Hunt described as a clear penalty in the second period.
Franklin Cale had an appeal for handball inside the Sundowns area turned down, after his curled effort struck a Downs defender on the arm, but play was waived on, and United were denied a penalty opportunity.
“Got to be a penalty, it's an absolute penalty,” Hunt said.
“The ball was on target, it's going for goal, but it hasn't been going well for us lately.
“A lot of decisions have not been going our way and we have to stand up now and be counted.”
While SuperSport were denied the spot kick, Hunt said the match should have been wrapped up before the incident, with his side creating a number of chances.
“We played well. I can't fault the players for effort,” he said.
“We should have won the game, we had more than enough chances. Before they scored in the first half, we had three great chances.
“Football is a funny game. It's a fine line between winning and losing.
“You can't do much, we have to keep working at training, keep trying to create chances.” – Sapa