Sundowns in control of situation, says coach Rhulani Mokwena
The team is on top of the log with two games in hand, but could be entering a slump
Mamelodi Sundowns are in the position of having banked points for most of the season so if things get tough at the sharp end they will have an overdraft to dip into‚ says co-coach Rhulani Mokwena.
The Premier Soccer League (PSL) took a fascinating turn as Downs went to five points dropped in two games after Sunday’s 2-1 defeat to Kaizer Chiefs with Wednesday’s 0-0 draw against third-placed Golden Arrows at Loftus Versfeld. In Cape Town, second-placed AmaZulu blew Cape Town City away 5-1.
While Wednesday’s results did not quite blow the title race wide open, it left Sundowns on 48 points from 23 games, AmaZulu on 47 from 25 and Arrows on 43 from 25.
Sundowns’ two games in hand present a significant advantage. But‚ as they face another tough match against Orlando Pirates at Orlando Stadium on Sunday‚ Downs will also be aware they could be entering the slump that every title-challenging team experiences‚ the length of which determines if they hold out for the title.
Biggest challengers AmaZulu had their slump at the start of the season‚ before Benni McCarthy’s arrival as coach‚ and Bafana Bafana’s record top scorer has Durban’s sleeping giants flying.
That would appear to indicate that‚ with all the playing and technical power and facilities‚ Sundowns’ biggest challenge will be mental to prevent doubt creeping into the players’ minds‚ and reverse their mini-slump quickly.
“The reality is we are in control of the situation — we trust the players‚” Mokwena said on Thursday ahead of the clash against fourth-place Pirates.
“We said to the players yesterday that they might not always trust us. Because you know how players are — when they’re playing [in the first team] they trust the coaches‚ and when they don’t play they don’t trust the coaches‚ and are not happy with all the decisions.
“They may not always trust us but we have full confidence in our players‚ and we trust them. And the experience that they have in terms of winning and success‚ of course is the culture‚ is part of Mamelodi Sundowns.
“And when you are in a position like that you know that you sit in a favourable position, you are in control. And when you are in control you don’t stress about anybody else.
“Our focus is on trying to make sure we finish this block of games as best as we possibly can. We’ve got certain targets and it’s clear that with this block we may not reach the targeted points.
“But we have done a very good job‚ and we’ve banked a few points. And you bank these points at the beginning of the season so that when a slight mishap happens you are able to then go into your overdraft and still be OK.”
Apart from their squad advantage‚ three-times defending champions Sundowns also have all the experience closing out championships.
AmaZulu‚ as evidenced by the videos on social media of their recent change room post-match celebrations‚ have spirit‚ nothing to lose‚ and the enthusiasm derived from an exciting new club management and coach who is an inspirational figure.
It could be tighter than anyone could have imagined a few weeks ago.
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