Mamelodi Sundowns coach Rhulani Mokwena has heaped praise on his side as they continued their unbeaten start to the season with a win over Maritzburg United but added that they still need to keep their feet on the ground.
The Brazilians went three points clear at the top of the DStv Premiership with a game in hand on second-placed Stellenbosch after the tight 1-0 win over the Team of Choice on Wednesday.
The result also had Masandawana setting a new PSL record of 11 successive clean sheets, surpassing the now-defunct Bidvest Wits’ record (10).
Speaking to SuperSport TV after the game, the 34-year-old tactician admitted that they have been doing well but he wants his players to focus on improving further.
“Having to arrive and have the right sort of mental focus, which we did have. The desire was there, the commitment was there. Not as intensive in the first half but a little bit more in the second half. We won more of our duels,” Mokwena said.
“Our line was a lot higher. Because of that our midfield line came a bit closer to the opposition box and because of that we could put a little bit more tension in and around the box through our high press and counter-press.
“Huge compliments to this group of players for what they have done. Not just today but from the beginning of the season until now. But, of course, it’s a long, long season. We still have to keep our feet firmly on the ground and continue to look to improve.
“We struggled a bit in the first half. Not really with their structure. Of course, they had a back four. We anticipated a back three with five in defence. But Nazeer Allie was playing as a left back and Nazeer is predominantly a right-footer,” he continued.
“And then we had Neo Maema and when you have Neo you have possibilities of cutting inside. When you have possibilities of cutting inside, it then means that you move a little bit in the direction that allows them time to reinforce and get numbers behind the ball.
“So, we had to tweak it a bit and have two left-footers on the left and two right-footers on the right so that our possibilities to find penetration without wasting a bit of time. We were wasting time because we had opposite-sided wingers we could not really arrive in the final third or in situations around the box to create situations,” he added.
“Then we changed at half time. We had Neo predominantly on the left and that’s where the goal came from. We saw in the first half how high their line was and, of course, if it’s not the diagonal dodge then it’s a straight dodge and maybe the diagonal dodge and we got it and compliments to the players. It was a top pass and a top finish.
“Well, it’s funny that you’re speaking about it. I’m going to become a historian. I said it to the players in the morning that this team has no blank pages. When you want to write history you have a clear understanding that nothing is born from nothing and nothing returns to nothing,” Mokwena said.
“Compliments to the group, not just the defence but the entire group for being in positions of working extremely hard to make sure they give themselves the opportunity to write history in the present.
“Congratulations to Pieterse, he was immense to us. Congratulations to the entire group, AJ [Andile Jali], Themba Zwane, Hash [Haashim Domingo] was excellent, stable. Mosa [Lebusa] zero mistakes, Peter energetic. Pavol [Safranko] was energetic, leading the line and giving us a focal point. It’s very difficult playing against Alfred Ndengane but the two strikers did very well.”
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