Pitso warns title rivals

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iol spt mar16 Downs1

Anesh Debiky/Gallo Images

Mamelodi Sundowns will soon recover from an injury crisis and will return to be a force to be reckoned with, coach Pitso Mosimane warned. Photo by Anesh Debiky/Gallo Images

Johannesburg – Mamelodi Sundowns will soon recover from an injury crisis and will return to be a force to be reckoned with, coach Pitso Mosimane warned on Saturday evening.

Sundowns kept in touch with log-leading Kaizer Chiefs with a 1-0 win over Polokwane City in a Premiership clash at Loftus Versfeld, in Pretoria, despite being without a host of key players.

“There’s a time when everybody will come back and we will be strong,” Mosimane said after the game on Saturday.

“These things (injuries) happen in football, but let me be honest. In my 13-year career, I’ve never seen this… never ever.

“I think it’s a test of character for the team, a test of character for me but you know what, I make a plan.”

The Brazilians were without as many as eight first choice players, including the strike pair of Cuthbert Malajila and Katlego Mashego, while at the back, skipper Alje Schut is still nursing a quad strain which has kept him out for the last four matches.

In midfield, Mosimane had to do without the likes of Khama Billiat, Bongani Zungu and Elias Pelembe, while goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene – who was on the bench and sporting headgear following a blow to the head last week – has also yet to fully recover from that injury.

Mosimane, nevertheless, was bullish as he reinforced Sundowns’ desire to make a push for the Premiership title.

“Everybody looks at the team-sheet, they say, ‘Zungu’s not there, Pelembe’s not there, Malajila’s not there, Mashego’s not there, Alje Schut is not there… I think we can beat these guys,’” Mosimane added.

“We keep winning. Sundowns has got ammunition, we’re strong.

“We lost Bongani, we lost Pelembe and Langerman… we won’t drop the ball because we believe that under this adversity, there is something behind.

“There must be something… I think, maybe, we’ll have the last laugh.”

Teko Modise netted the only goal of the game in the 17th minute to hand Mosimane a nervy three points when Sundowns could have converted plenty more.

“It was a hard-earned one. We fought, we survived,” Mosimane said.

“I’m okay with the win, yes, and with the performance… the team fought and they showed big-time character.

“Unfortunately we had to make two forced substitutes again today, because people cannot continue.”

Mosimane will have to contend with fresh injury concerns ahead of his next game, against Free State Stars on Tuesday, as he replaced Modise late in the game, with the crafty midfielder looking worse-for-wear as he was stretchered off the field.

“I hope I have 18 players for Free State. Tonight I had 19, but I believe we will come back again and we’ll survive,” he said.

Chiefs edged Orlando Pirates earlier in the day, momentarily going nine points clear at the top, but Downs ensured they kept pace with the log-leading Soweto giants, thanks to Modise's early strike which cut Amakhosi's advantage back to six.

“Sundowns has character and Sundowns is strong. We’ll still go on, we’re not going to drop the ball, we’ll keep going, irrespective and against all odds,” Mosimane concluded. – Sapa


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