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Johan Neeskens scowled, growled and grumbled, then he did his best to rose tint. But even the most iridescent of spectacles couldn’t hide yet another season of failure at Chloorkop, an empty trophy cabinet for the fourth successive season the most obvious totem.
The Dutch legend’s first season in charge of the Brazilians held much initial promise, but as with many recent Sundowns sides, faded into obscurity, a league collapse followed by an abject defeat to SuperSport United in Saturday’s Nedbank Cup final.
Billionaire owner Patrice Motsepe has not exercised much patience with past Sundowns coaches and it remains to be seen if Neeskens is to be given another shot at glory.
The Dutch legend, who never exactly exudes joy, was typically frigid when asked about his future following the 2-0 loss to Matsatsantsa.
“Only two people can decide my future, myself and the president,” said the Sundowns coach.
“I don’t want to talk about next year because first we have to think about this game and analyse. We will speak to the boys tomorrow and after that everyone will go on holiday, except our internationals.”
Thinking about this game might be the last thing the Sundowns players want to do, as this Tshwane derby was an unmitigated disaster for the men in yellow – from Clayton Daniels’ red card inside the first 20 minutes, to the conceding of goals to Thabo September and Kermit Erasmus that saw SuperSport United lift the South African version of the FA Cup for the third time in their history.
Sundowns’ rather guileless play was typical of the latter part of the season, where their creativity has been sapped, and their defending unusually sloppy. They may have had only 10 men, but Sundowns still fell asleep and left September unmarked to put SuperSport in front five minutes before half-time.
“When I came we started to play a new system and they had to adapt, and I think they did very well if I look at it over the whole season,” continued Neeskens.
“There was a lot of improvement, though we have to improve more, but football is decided by scoring goals and in the first half of the (league) season we scored 30 goals and in the second half we scored only 14. It doesn’t mean we played badly or much worse than in the first round… but if you don’t score your chances, you don’t win games.
“But at least the players put out all their effort, so I can’t complain about that.”
Whether Motsepe begs to differ remains to be seen, but what is without doubt on Saturday is that SuperSport United were simply superb.
Gavin Hunt’s side tore into their Tshwane neighbours from the start, even before Daniels was sent off for a professional foul on Erasmus.
This was Hunt’s first knockout trophy at Matsatsantsa to add to three league titles and he was understandably delighted.
“Every game is important, but in five years we’ve got three league titles and a cup. It’s fantastic, I’m very happy.”
Part of Hunt’s genius is re-inventing his side with the inevitable end-of-season departures. Again this season, the likes of captain Morgan Gould and left-back Tebogo Langerman are on their way out.
“Every year is almost a building phase while other clubs keep their players. It’s sad for me, I don’t want to lose players, but these things happen.”
Hunt, meanwhile, will sit down with SuperSport management today to discuss his own future. “We’re meeting (today) and I am sure I will be there!” said the SuperSport coach. – The Star