Mighty Sundowns embarrass Kaizer Chiefs at FNB Stadium
JOHANNESBURG – Champions Mamelodi Sundowns began their DStv Premiership title defence with a comfortable victory over Kaizer Chiefs, the team they pipped for the title, at a deserted FNB Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The new era that’s underway at Sundowns, following the departure of coach Pitso Mosimane, may take a while before it fully blossoms and bears fruit. But once that transition is done, expect a fully fledged team that will have no problems in competing on all fronts.
Sundowns' win away in Soweto on the opening day of the DStv Premiership was decent, despite warming up to the match late after a threatening start from the home side.
There were reasons to believe that Sundowns’ outcome would go south, having lost their first match of the season in the MTN8 quarter-finals to Bloemfontein Celtic and some of the key players still hungover after scooping individual accolades at the PSL annual awards on Thursday.
The Brazilians’ talisman Themba Zwane, who scored his team’s winning goal through a penalty after another Itumeleng Khune blunder, was the big winner at the virtual event, scooping three major awards, which include the coveted PSL Footballer of the Season.
But it appears that the same mentality of being at their best week in and week out, despite the outside influences, is still part of Sundowns’ DNA, something that will appease co-coaches, who are under the microscope, Manqoba Mngqithi and Rhulani Mokwena.
The coaching duo – Mngqithi and Mokwena – in particular will be chuffed that the team’s philosophy is gradually shedding off to newbies, having new striking partners Peter Shalulile and Kermit Erasmus ensured the team got their all-important first three points of the season.
It was a new dimension for Sundowns’ team, starting with two strikers up front. But that awkward scenario nearly paid dividends mid-way through the first half after Khune made a poor clearance to Shalulile.
The league’s joint top goal scorer intercepted the ball before lobbing it over the onrushing Khune. However, Ramahle Mphahlele was first hand to make a timeously clearance.
But Khune, though, wouldn’t get away with his blunders twice.
The Bafana Bafana international, late into the half, left his line during a corner-kick as his late punch missed the ball, allowing Shalulile to pounce home, his first goal of the season, with his shoulder into an empty net.
But even at his redemption, Khune didn’t get the backing from his defence. After cleverly covering the angle to block Zwane from close-range, Khune’s rebound fell to an unmarked Erasmus whose pile-drive sailed into the far-post, despite a cluster of Chiefs’ jersey behind the ball.
At the end, it was all smiles for Mnqgithi and Mokwena, while counterpart Gavin Hunt was given a constant reminder that he’s got a long way to go before shaping up Chiefs to a fully fledged team with the current crop of players.
The transfer ban that hangs over Chiefs meant that they’ll need to dig deep and rely on the development graduates. But not all is lost for Hunt, though, who will be hoping to reach the final of the MTN8, through a two-legged semi-final against rivals Orlando Pirates.