Maybe because they know the Premier Soccer League (PSL) title is in the bag, Mamelodi Sundowns coach Manqoba Mngqithi says their target for the remainder of the season is reaching the 71-point mark.
The Brazilians hold the record for most points in the professional era with 71, which they achieved in the 2015/2016 season, lifting the trophy with a 14-point advantage over second-placed Bidvest Wits under then-coach Pitso Mosimane.
Sundowns have 57 points and will better their record by one point to 72 if they win their remaining five matches against Cape Town City, Sekhukhune United, Kaizer Chiefs, Stellenbosch FC and Royal AM.
“Our benchmark for last season was 67 points and if we can improve on that it will be good for us,” Mngqithi said after Sundowns thrashed Golden Arrows 6-0 at Loftus on Tuesday.
“But the biggest benchmark Sundowns have achieved is 71 points and to get to that means we must win all our remaining matches.
“So that is the direction we want to take, that is the mentality we have, to try to compete against ourselves.”
Sundowns need two wins from their remaining five matches to secure the league championship.
“We are not looking at how many matches we need to play to win the league,” Mngqithi said. “Today [Tuesday] we were pushing because this cycle of five games, we didn’t do as well as we wanted. We had to make sure that we win this match so we have a decent outcome from this cycle of five games. It was 10 out of 15 points we got out of this cycle, but we wanted more than that.
“Our target is always to better ourselves and to know the challenge that we have in the Champions League is bigger than all of us,” he said.
Sundowns have scored 22 goals in their past five matches in all competitions, but the statistic that pleases Mngqithi more is that The Brazilians have only conceded four in that period.
“When it comes to goals, it is not hefty, but we were only looking to score two. If we score two goals in a match we are happy, and if we can keep maybe four clean sheets in five matches we are happy. So when we score 22 we don’t want to get carried away, because that has got the potential of complacency creeping in,” he said.
Red-hot striker Peter Shalulile broke records and made history when he scored a hat-trick in the 6-0 win over Golden Arrows on Tuesday.
The Namibian international became the first player to score back-to-back hat-tricks in the PSL since its inception in the 1996/1997 season, and the first Sundowns player to score more than 20 goals in the league in a season.
Shalulile, 28, leads the league scoring charts with 21 goals and has scored 27 in all competitions.
Mngqithi praised the striker for his remarkable exploits and said Shalulile was one of the best in the PSL simply by virtue of his phenomenal work rate.
“He runs the hardest in the team. He works very hard and some will say he is lucky because when you find him, [he is] in positions where he taps in or scores with one touch or that little header. It looks like this guy is very fortunate. But for me, it’s when opportunity meets hard work that a lot of people will say you are lucky. That’s what happens with Peter.
“He has been a good example in our team who everybody can follow. The team is working hard, but Peter is one of the most professional I’ve worked with.”
Shalulile is four goals from breaking Collins Mbesuma’s 16-year-old record for the most goals (25) in a PSL season.
Shalulile will be looking to add to his three Caf Champions League goals when Sundowns travel to Angola to face Petro de Luanda in the quarterfinals on Saturday (6pm SA time).
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