The Loftus Versfeld press room turned into a coaching seminar after Mamelodi Sundowns had beaten what on paper looked like a defensive-minded Kaizer Chiefs side 2-1 on Saturday afternoon.
Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane apparently annoyed his Amakhosi counterpart Steve Komphela in the build-up to their Absa Premiership clash in Tshwane by telling journalists that the match was likely to be one-sided. Mosimane said his assessment was after he’d watched Chiefs’ previous two matches against Baroka FC and Free State Stars, where Komphela used as many as five defenders.
“Let me debunk the myth of five,” a visibly irritated Amakhosi coach said. “I will not be aggressive, but I will try to be very rational and it is a seed that was planted by a man who was not supposed to be planting the seed - an expert in our field. With respect, we were playing a 3-4-3 formation and we had two wingbacks and two centrebacks. Who scored today? It was Ramahlwe Mphahlele (a defender) because when we attack he is higher up there. The goal scored by Bradley Grobler for Bafana against Mozambique, where did it come from? The same Ramahlwe. To you (journalists) I have to explain, but to my colleague I would reprimand him to say don’t send the wrong message. It was misleading.”
As Komphela left the room, Mosimane took his seat to talk to the press, and naturally the discussion about tactics used on the day came up. While the Sundowns coach changed his tune regarding how the match unfolded, he reiterated that Chiefs still had six defensive-mined players on the pitch in goal scorer Mphahlele, Sibusiso Khumalo, Mulomowandau Mathoho, Lorenzo Gordinho, Daniel Cardoso and Willard Katsande, who operated just in front of the two centrebacks.
“On positions, it is the way it is. But if I count, Katsande is also a defender. Do you know where he plays? Right in front of Mathoho and did he cross the halfway line? Maybe once and he didn’t go far.” Mosimane explained. “I don’t know which system is right. Any of them could be right, but also you can find flaws, too. Juventus used this system and were incredible. They got to play in the final of the European Champions League last year. I play old fashion 4-4-2 and I don’t know all these other ones that you guys always mention. It’s easy, you know who is playing on the right and who is playing on the left. Once you change it around, sometimes the players don’t have the intelligence that you want for them to execute. Sometimes the old-fashioned way is the best way and it’s easy for you guys to write about it.”
Komphela wouldn’t have agreed if the two coaches were sitting next to each other as is usually custom in PSL post-match press conferences. But a 40-minute delay in getting the keys to unlock the auditorium meant the two elite coaches, who were already late in honouring their mandatory media commitments after the game, could freely discuss their game plans without having to worry about offending each other.
“When we played Free State Stars, there was great energy and I don’t remember the number of chances we missed,” said Komphela, referring back to the Telkom Knockout quarter-final match Chiefs lost on penalties following a 2-2 draw in open play two weeks ago. “Maybe I should make a request to our colleagues: refrain from misinformation because what I say in public comes across as gospel because of the profile that you hold as a coach. We must interpret things properly. Our structure was highly offensive in my opinion.”
Mosimane’s reading of the Chiefs formation, regardless whether it was to Komphela’s taste or not, proved to be spot on with victory helping them move up the table as they play catch-up having fallen behind due to their CAF Champions League commitments. The Brazilians still have five games in hand on their PSL rivals.
“We scored a similar goal Free State Stars scored against Chiefs, using our full-back (Tebogo Langerman) because there was no right-back to defend. Whatever system you play, it has a shortfall and you must have the personnel for it,” the Sundowns coach said. “But there was football on the day, unlike the last time where we had to worry about counter-attacks. When I saw the Chiefs line-up I saw five, six defenders and I said what is going on here? But they played, they came out and I felt we dominated.”
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