Cape Town — The post-match comments from the two camps in Saturday's night Tshwane Derby highlighted the maddening vulnerability that sometimes characterised Mamelodi Sundowns' performances over the past few months, stretching to the back end of last season.
SuperSport United were defeated 1-0 but fielded a decidedly under-strength team who were without their coach Kaitano Tembo and several regulars, including star captain Ronwen Williams. They were all laid low by the pandemic, and several players from the ranks of the reserves team were called up.
Despite that setback, SuperSport under the watch of stand-in coach Andre Arendse gave the unbeaten champions a good run for their money. Afterwards, Arendse felt his under-strength team gave such a good account of themselves they deserved a share of the spoils.
“It (the draw) is a bitter pill to swallow because I thought we deserved something out of it just for effort alone," said Arendse. “I think everybody gave their all to the extent that we had to make substitutions because there were cramps and injuries.
"The only way we were going to create those chances for us was to press them high, press them together, which we did.
“We locked them in certain areas of the game, and when we did win balls, for the most part, we created something."
Sundowns co-coach Manqoba Mngqithi said his team made heavy weather of the win and made silly mistakes.
“We made it difficult for ourselves by not finishing the chances we created," said Mngqithi. "I think the anxiety started to creep in when we could not exploit our chances, and from there, we started making some silly mistakes technically in losing the ball.
“It was a game that started very well, but surprisingly in the first three minutes, SuperSport got the first shot at goal from Onismor Bhasera, which was a snapshot in front of our defence.
"After that, we recollected ourselves. We came back stronger and managed to get a goal (through Peter Shalulile). Then we tried to pile on the intensity a little bit."
Mngqithi felt the loss of Thabiso Kutumela, who was stretchered off in the first half, was hugely disruptive.
"We were unfortunate to lose Thabiso Kutumela as he was very influential in our high press,” said Mngqithi.
“After his departure, we started to give a little bit more space and time to Jamie Webber and Kegan Johannes (both SuperSport), and they made our lives difficult. When Webber finds the right back easily, and Johannes finds the left back easily, it becomes a game where you must try to deal with them in wide channels.
“Overall, I think SuperSport gave a very good account of themselves. They gave us a hard time. (Moses) Waiswa played very well and managed some good snapshots.
“(Thamsanqa) Gabuza was always handy, and Webber was instrumental in their attacking play. One must appreciate that we got the three points, but the truth of the matter is it was not an easy one."