JOHANNESBURG – Mamelodi Sundowns’ wing-back Thapelo Morena acknowledges that they have to start taking their chances upfront if they are to dominate top-flight football this season.
On Saturday, the Brazilians lost 2-0 to Baroka FC in the Telkom Knockout quarter-finals. That loss ensured they lose out on the second cup competition this season as they had already missed out on the MTN8.
Morena and company will now turn their focus to their Absa Premiership title defence as they welcome Free State Stars at Loftus Versfeld tonight (7:30pm).
Although they are the only team that’s yet to lose in the league so far, their performance has been disappointing. After eight matches, they’ve only won three and drawn five.
“We’ve been working hard as the defensive unit and that starts from the two (strikers) upfront,” he said about their four clean sheets in the last six matches. “But like I said, our biggest problem has been creating chances that we don’t convert (into goals).”
While Sundowns’ start hasn’t been at its best so far, Morena has enjoyed one of the best tenures of his career. After seven matches in all competitions this season, the 25-year-old versatile player was called up to the Bafana Bafana squad that faced Seychelles in the Afcon qualifiers. That was short-lived as he was diagnosed with a thigh injury on the second day of the camp. However, Morena recovered sooner than expected and credits the club’s coaches and rehabilitation program for that.
“Firstly, I’d like to thank the coach and the technical team because they are the ones that put my mind in the right space,” he said. “I think I’ve been doing really well during rehab, and that enhanced my early recovery. Rehab is very important for a player. And that makes it easier to quickly come back.”
That injury is likely the cause of his exclusion from the Bafana squad that will face Nigeria - on November 17 at FNB Stadium - in the penultimate Afcon qualifiers. But according to Morena, his previous call-up serves as a source of motivation to continue with the hard work.
Since his move from Bloemfontein Celtic during the start of the 2016/2017 season, he was involved in the Brazilians’ triumph in the Caf Super Cup and recent Absa Premiership.
“Under coach Ernst Middendorp at Celtic, I played as a right-back,” Morena said. “However, coming to Sundowns and playing as a wing-back shows that I can play and adapt in various positions. I knew (coming here) I’d be able to face whatever situation but I’ll have to work hard.”
Being a Siwelele academy product, Morena is hoping that there’ll be an immediate solution to the Bloemfontein club’s financial woes. Celtic is bankrupt and the club has been put up for sale.