PRETORIA – As Mamelodi Sundowns search for a sniper, prepared to break the bank to get him – the sling-shot they deemed surplus to their needs made them pay.
The unorthodox Rodney Ramagalela, with a work-rate of a donkey, ran the Brazilians’ defence rugged and grabbed the double for Polokwane City in a 2-1 Absa Premiership victory over the African champions on Tuesday night.
If he had reliable support, Ramagalela would have embarrassed the African champions. With support not forthcoming, the strong forward decided to take matters into his own hands – starting and finishing his own move after he rudely made Soumahoro Bangaly show him his number.
Ramagalela tried to pass a teammate, but no one availed themselves.
So, the former Sundowns striker took the ball that ricocheted off Oupa Manyisa to put Rise and Shine ahead in the 36th minute.
The goal gave the side from the Limpopo confidence and a positive affirmation on their game plan, which was centred on defending in numbers, but allowing Jabu Maluleke to roam freely and use his brilliant passing abilities to unleash Ramagalela.
Maluleke and Ramagalela combined in both goals, with the second a screamer that showed Ramagalela’s powerful boot and awareness to beat goalkeeper Denis Onyango, who was off his line.
The young Motjeka Madisha had to calm things down at the back for Sundowns to support Bangaly, who was all over the place.
Thokozani Sekotlong also needed someone to calm him down too on his debut. The lad from Mamelodi tried too much to please in front of his home crowd, and the 26-year-old should have netted a hat-trick in the first half from the three good chances he had.
Even though he missed all of them, the crowd cheered for him, and coach Pitso Mosimane applauded his effort in a move to help him quickly settle into the team.
Sekotlong was not the only Mamelodi-born player the Brazilians helped settle into the set-up.
Hlompho Kekana handed over the penalty-taking duty to George Lebese after referee Chris Harrison judged Thapelo Tshilo to have handled the ball in the box in the 55th minute.
Lebese stepped up and scored his first goal for the club he grew up supporting. That goal, regardless of how it came, should help Lebese settle in a team he still sticks out of, along with Oupa Manyisa.
The pair, Lebese and Manyisa, are still settling into a star-studded team.
Mosimane dropped the sentiment and took out the pair from Mamelodi, Lebese and Sekotlong, replacing them with Anthony Laffor and Yannick Zakri in search of an equaliser and continue what would have been a rare good start.
But Rise and Shine held on to beat Sundowns for the first time in their own backyard.
This match showed how much the Brazilians need a reliable centre-forward to complement their good passing game.
The closest Sundowns had to a centre-forward were Sekotlong and Laffor. The pair are centre-forwards like pellet guns are weapons – they can inflict pain, but not as much as the real thing.
The absence of Leonardo Castro, who is in Colombia attending to his pregnant wife, has made matters worse.
Sundowns have managed to go this long without a marksman because goals come from almost everywhere in their attack-minded players, who swap roles with ease.
But when they have to penetrate a brickwall, they need someone whose speciality is to just put the ball into the back of the net.