Manqoba Mngqithi impressed with how new players have slotted in at Mamelodi Sundowns
JOHANNESBURG - The battle for honours between Kaizer Chiefs and Mamelodi Sundowns could well be decided in the boardroom rather than on the pitch.
On Saturday, a picture of the power differences came to the fore in the Premiership. Treble champions Sundowns proved their financial muscles didn’t go to waste after some of their dozen marquee signings stepped up to the plate.
The impact of new striking duo Peter Shalulile and Kermit Erasmus paid dividends for the Brazilians as they ran out 3-0 victors over Chiefs in the opening round of their championship defence.
Shalulile scored Sundowns’ opening goal in the first half after a mistimed clearance from goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune, while Erasmus doubled his team’s lead early in the second half after capitalising on a rebound from the Bafana Bafana shot-stopper.
Sundowns co-coach Manqoba Mngqithi, who has acknowledged that they need to trim the squad to a more managable one, has been impressed with how the new troops have slotted into the team.
“Over the past three seasons we have not been scoring enough goals, although we’ve been working hard to improve those statistics. They’ve not been coming up but we’ve been fortunate that our defensive record has been relatively good,” said Mngqithi, who had assisted former coach Pitso Mosimane in the last seven and a half years.
“With Kermit, (Gift) Motupa, (Mauricio) Affonso and Gaston (Sirino) and Shalulile, we should hope for a little better in terms of the numbers that we can collect from them. It’s encouraging to see them (the new players) playing together for the first time.”
Kudos should also go to Themba Zwane, who scored his team’s third goal via a penalty. After walking away with three major awards at the PSL Awards on Thursday, including the coveted Footballer of the Season, Zwane didn’t appear to be hungover from his clean sweep.
Mngqithi, though, was his usual modest self, saying that all the Sundowns players who were big winners at the awards could have easily become big-headed but had kept their feet on the ground.
Meanwhile, Amakhosi’s one-year transfer ban continued to haunt them against the Brazilians as they were made to look amateurish, skipper Khune making two costly errors, while coach Gavin Hunt was forced to look for impact players from the development graduates.
The Chiefs coach says he’s aware of his troops’ faults, although he wouldn’t divulge much, and urged his players to continue fighting for a better understanding of his philosophy.
“There’s no excuses but we are nowhere near where we want to be. There are a lot of things that I want to say but it’s not right for the media to hear those. There are a lot of things that we must work on,” Hunt said.
“I wasn’t happy last week (in the MTN8 quarter-finals), despite the result. I think we created quite a few chances in the last two games which was good. But on the other side, there’s a certain element of a game of football that you need in a football team. I know what it is, so we’ll keep striving to get there.”