After reigning PSL champions Mamelodi Sundowns were knocked out of the MTN8, coach Pitso Mosimane pleaded for time saying his star-studded side are not ready ... yet.
“My team’s not ready. It’s still pre-season. It’s early. We are finding our feet but that’s not an excuse. We lost fairly and squarely and we accept the defeat. It’s week six. We need time,” said Mosimane after Sundowns lost 2-1 to Platinum Stars at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
Mosimane says his team need time for players to gel.
The former Bafana Bafana coach made close to eight signings during the current transfer season. With the new signings, it was expected Sundowns will shrug off Stars, who were weakened by the loss of a number of key players during the off-season.
However, it was Stars who go through to the semi-finals with goals by Vuyo Mere and Ndumiso Mabena.
Sundowns’ lone goal came late in the game courtesy of Mozambican international Elias Pelembe.
For a team that won the title last season, Sundowns were desperate, anxious and tactically found wanting in their quest to make a comeback after going two goals down.
Sundowns players resorted to hurried attacks with long balls that proved fruitless.
It was contrary to the way Sundowns usually play – their creative passing game with a dash of audacity.
Mosimane says they were forced to alter their tactics as coach Allan Freese’s men “parked a bus”.
“Tactics are influenced by the scoreboard. They change and you have to respond to the scoreboard. You can’t play the same style of football when the scoreboard tells you something different, you have to adjust.
“Crosses were hurried. We tried with different combination play and we tried overlaps. It doesn’t mean it will always work the way you want it to work. The crosses last season won us the league,” said Mosimane.
Victorious coach Freese conceded that his men were ultra defensive after taking a 2-0 lead.
“We parked the bus. Yes, we did but the strategy was to park it with a driver and go forward quickly. The wheels were not taken off and the bus also moved forward a little bit,” said Freese, who guided Stars to two cup triumphs last season.
Freese has lost influential players in Lindokuhle Mbatha, Issa Sarr and Mogakalodi Ngele, who is a Sundowns player but on loan at Stars.
The trio were key figures for Stars last season but Freese managed to get the better of Sundowns.
The former Kaizer Chiefs defender says the loss of players is not new and he is hopeful Stars will still do well in the competition and the league.
“It happens every year and every season. Some players you cannot keep for different reasons and some players’ contracts come to an end.
“I tried to bring in new players to fill positions where the first-choice players had gone elsewhere,” said Freese, who was happy to see his men advance to the next stage of the tournament they won last season.
Saturday was not a great day for Tshwane, though, as SuperSport United were also knocked out.
Orlando Pirates beat Cavin Johnson’s men 2-1 at Orlando Stadium.
However, it was the loss of Sundowns that shocked many fans considering the flurry of activity in the transfer market where they spent millions to acquire players.
Mosimane has defended their buying spree frenzy: “Sundowns are an very ambitious team. Sundowns will always strengthen the team. If there’s the possibility of acquiring talent, we will make sure we try to get talent to play for the team. But that doesn’t guarantee you will win everything,” said Mosimane.
“Our vision is to make the team stronger for the next two to three years. We want the team to stay strong going beyond just a single season. We will do our best to empower the team.”
Sundowns’ next assignment will be their Absa Premiership season opener against Maritzburg United at Loftus Versfeld on Friday. - The Star