Saturday afternoon in Soweto, Mamelodi Sundowns earned a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Orlando Pirates in a DStv Premiership match. Cassius Mailula scored the game’s sole goal for Masandawana in the first half, and the team went on to defeat the Buccaneers despite their efforts to get an equalizer. Downs head coach Rulani Mokwena provided a summary of his team’s performance during the post-match news conference.
“[It was] a very difficult game between two strong teams, with Pirates dominating, in my opinion. But I also believed our chances were better. We played the game how a major game ought to be played. I was pleasantly surprised by how effectively we defended; generally we need the ball to defend, but today we defended extraordinarily well, there were no significant opportunities in open play, and we shown that we can play in difficult games and adapt to the circumstances. I have nothing but the highest regard and admiration for this bunch of athletes. If I were to rank it out of 10, excluding the overall performance, I would give it a 15/10.”
“We faced a very strong opponent; this could have been a Champions League away game.” When we struggled in the past to keep a clean sheet against very good teams, we didn’t give Pirates too many chances except on set pieces. They had some very good situations on set pieces, and they played for them. I thought we had the better chances, despite the fact that they had more of the ball and were more dominant in possession.
The reigning champions recalled Ronwen Williams, a Bafana Bafana international goalkeeper, along with Teboho Mokwena and Themba Zwane, who were suspended for the previous match. Due to a hectic schedule of matches, Coach Rulani emphasized the significance of rotating players during this period. We are the only team to have played eight games in January, which necessitated rotation, not so much to refresh the team but to give everyone a chance to play because we have a large roster and the only way to keep everyone happy is to try to give minutes to everyone, and they’ve performed admirably.
Mailula, a 21-year-old striker for Masandawana, has been hitting goals since opening his scoring account in the Caf Champions League in October 2022. Mailula has been a regular starter in the starting eleven for the Tshwane giants and is presently tied with colleague Peter Shalulile for the most goals scored in the domestic league with six. Shalulile is three goals ahead of the youthful star.
“The victory is a good victory, but we remain incredibly humble even in victory.” Rather of focusing on the score, it is more important to monitor the players’ contributions during the entire 90 minutes, as there is considerable room for improvement. The only aspect of the transition in which he fell short was his decision-making; [he is] still very young and has a great deal of instruction to get. Offensive players must learn by experiencing these situations and getting better, but [I am] really happy of him and the squad, despite the fact that we still have a great deal of work to do.” Coach Rulani complimented on Mailula’s performance as a goal scorer.
Jerome Karelse has ignited the DStv Diski Challenge, just as the yellow nation promoted Mailula from their development team to the senior squad. Jerome Karelse was introduced in the midst of a tense match against the Sea Robbers, and he generated a stir. Karelse is recognized as the first player to score three consecutive hat-tricks in the Diski Challenge and scored 11 goals to finish as the competition’s top scorer. The coach of the Brazilians emphasized the significance of the young player being surrounded by more experienced players at the Sundowns camp for his growth.
“He can only improve. He is fortunate to be playing with some of the top players in the country and the continent, and I am really proud of him for this opportunity. He performs a great deal of work with us, including extensive video analysis and training. We must give these youngsters a chance; his contemporaries are playing in the World Cup. It may be one or two years too late, but we must give them a chance.”
“You’re never too young, I’m living proof of that, therefore I also have to give individuals opportunities, especially when they have a willingness to be coached, talent, and work ethic. He can only improve by observing and learning from extremely talented football players.
Mamelodi Sundowns will return to action on Tuesday, 7 February, when they host Richards Bay in the Nedbank Cup round of 32.
»They did great in giving everyone minutes, which is the best way to keep everyone satisfied. Rulani Mokwena«
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