JOHANNESBURG – Pitso Mosimane frowned at a suggestion that the Mamelodi Sundowns defence may be the weakest link in a team that has been incredibly consistent after errors at the back gifted Barcelona two goals in their friendly match on Wednesday night.
Perhaps it is a little unfair to argue that the coach should consider looking elsewhere to reinforce his back four given they were playing against a team of Barcelona’s stature, but it must be pointed out that the mistakes in the 3-1 defeat were a bit schoolboyish.
Just minutes after kick-off of the Nelson Mandela Centenary clash at FNB Stadium, centrehalf Bangaly Soumahoro carelessly gave the ball away to Ousmane Dembele who didn’t waste time making the Ivorian pay for surrendering possession so cheaply.
And then in the second half, captain Hlompho Kekana was too casual in playing the ball from the back as per Mosimane’s instructions at half-time, allowing Andre Gomes to benefit from the miscommunication to score what was then Barcelona’s third on the night.
“It was simply stage fright. That is how to best sum it up. We were playing Barcelona, give the guys a chance.”
“When we play against Pirates and Chiefs we don’t have this.” said Mosimane before taking offence when names of Bidvest Wits duo, captain Thulani Hlatshwayo and Buhle Mkhwanazi, were put forward as alternative options by a journalist.
“They were nervous and had anxiety.”
"Bangaly made a mistake… it’s normal. And Kekana normally comes out with the ball at the back there, but they were a little confident because at half-time I told them to play the way Sundowns way.”
"I said they should not be afraid because Bangaly made a mistake. Do you think Hlatshwayo could have stopped those goals? I mean really...
"How can he stop Barcelona? He must stop Sundowns first.”
Although those two names appeared to rub the coach up the wrong way, the point was that when Sundowns go up a level, like the Fifa Club World Cup in 2016 for instance, they seem to always hold their own in attack.
But their defence is often their Achilles Heel.
“I don’t agree that if we had signed other players from wherever else we would have done better. No, we made mistakes, let’s be honest. We gave them the two goals. But under normal circumstance, we are not that bad.” said Mosimane.
“The class of Dembele and them was there for everyone to see. He is a 21-year-old who is right footed, but finished that powerfully with his left foot. We also knew that he cuts in a lot. I don’t think our defence was bad.”
“If we didn’t give them the two goals, who knows, maybe we could have held on longer. But what we need to speak about is the (poor) finishing in the country. Our finishing could have been better and I always say to Percy Tau that we need to work on that.”
Whether Mosimane agrees or not, the Brazilians will have to learn not to be overwhelmed by the occasion when they continue their journey to a second Club World Cup appearance via the CAF Champions League route.
Sundowns, the 2016 African champions, travel to Conakry in Guinea to face Horoya in the group stages on Tuesday as they look for their first win following the 1-1 draw at home against defending champions Wydad Casablanca two weeks ago.