JOHANNESBURG – Mamelodi Sundowns may be destined not to win any domestic knockout silverware this season after being eliminated from the Nedbank Cup, but coach Pitso Mosimane is not going to be scratching his head in disappointment for too long.
The Brazilians’ last gasp 2-1 defeat to Chippa United will serve to give the defending PSL champions a breather from a hectic schedule.
Speaking after the loss at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Saturday, Mosimane made it clear that his team are still on track when it comes to “the bigger picture”.
Such is Mosimane’s passion for continental glory that local competitions suddenly seem no longer glamorous for him. In fact, the defeat to Chippa has him looking forward to rest days that will ensure his team are fresh for a challenge at the Caf Champions League currently underway as well as ensuring they participate in the next edition by either winning the league title or finishing second.
“When you look at the positives from what happened,” Mosimane said after the match. “I think it releases one more day for the programme that we have because we’ve got the league on Tuesday and games in hand that we have to finish.”
Sundowns have only played 15 league matches but are incredibly in third place on standings, a mere three points behind leaders Wits and lag second-placed Orlando Pirates by just one (after 18 games).
“On Friday we are playing a top team (Asec Mimosas) from Abidjan in Cote D’Ivoire.” Mosimane said. “In that game, we have to win. The same for Tuesday’s game. It’s a bit tough, but we have to accept it and we’ve been handling it well.”
Sundowns supporters would have been disappointed by the Cup exit. Mosimane would like them to remember that such tournaments, especially the Nedbank Cup, are unlike the league.
“In Cups like these anything is possible. Obviously we are disappointed that we didn’t win, but this one was not meant for us,” Mosimane said. “I am unhappy with the result, but not the play. We played well, and just conceded goals at critical times.”
Despite their short-comings in the striking department, Sundowns’ aspirations of conquering the continent remain on course. Mosimane has bemoaned the lack of a target man, as striker Jeremy Brockie, Phakamani Mahlambi and Ali Meza have taken a while to find their footing at the Chloorkop-based side.
Mahlambi, did, however, prove what he can offer the Brazilians though, as he smashed home a half-volley to equalise for Downs following a lovely diagonal pass from marksman Gaston Sirino. Despite those hurdles, the former Bafana Bafana coach was still thrilled with his team’s performance.
“In the last 30-40 minutes, I thought that they’d be stronger than us as we played a well-rested team,” Mosimane said.
“But we were stronger at the end, it just shows the mentality of the team, and the will to win. They believe that they can win.
It also shows the physical side of the game because I saw some of their players cramping.”@Mihlalibaleka