at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
The situation at Mamelodi Sundowns is so bad that coach Johan Neeskens could not celebrate reaching a knockout competition final, in what is arguably their finest moment in a poor campaign in recent times.
Soon after booking their place in the Telkom Knockout final on Saturday night, thanks to a 1-0 victory over city rivals SuperSport United at Peter Mokaba Stadium, the Dutchman did not get carried away and instead talked of how the big spenders have to move away from the bottom spot in the league.
The Brazilians are without a victory in the league since mid-August when they beat PSL rookies Chippa United and are in desperate need of a turnaround, preferably sooner rather than later, Neeskens stated.
“My challenge is to move away from the bottom spot, then we will see in the next five matches how things are going. I’m not thinking about challenging for the league because if you look at the standings, there is a big (points) difference. Right now we are just concerned about getting the results. Sometimes we just need a little bit of luck. We will give it our best. I’m very optimistic,” he said.
The former Barcelona assistant coach is hoping that making it to the final will be the club’s turning point and has challenged his troops to transfer their cup form to the league, starting with their Absa Premiership clash against AmaZulu, a club they beat 2-0 in the Telkom Knockout quarter-final in Durban, on Wednesday.
“Of course I am happy that we are in the final.
“ But we are looking to transfer our form in the cup to the league. In our last four or five games we have done very well.
“I can see that the confidence is back. If you compare our last five games with our first five of the season, you will see that there is a lot of improvement. Winning this game (against SuperSport) will boost us in the league because we need to move away from the relegation zone.
“Now we have to see who we play on Wednesday because a couple of guys have knocks.”
Neeskens praised striker Eleazar Rodgers, who scored his second goal in as many matches in the Telkom Knockout.
The former Santos striker was booed two weeks ago in Sundowns’ match against Orlando Pirates, but has come alive since, playing an integral part in the Brazilians’ road to the Telkom Knockout final.
“I hope he will continue this way. I am very happy for him because he is doing well.
“I work with the players everyday and I see what is happening at training. I get booed also. So what?
“It’s part of football. You have to be strong mentally, and I’m happy he did not let it get to him. As long as I think he is doing well for the team, he will play because I am the coach.”
Sundowns and SuperSport, the two Tshwane giants, have struggled in the league while fellow city rivals University of Pretoria have done extremely well in their rookie season.
However, SuperSport coach Gavin Hunt is optimistic Matsatsantsa and the side he lost to Saturday will bounce back.
“I think clubs in the league are very close now, there’s a fine line. There’s no way Sundowns should be where they are at the moment. But there is no doubt that we will bounce back. When? We don’t know. We just have to keep working hard,” said Hunt. – The Star