Down but unbowed

2011-02-19 00:00

MAMELODI Sundowns will aim to restore some fire to their spluttering title challenge when they meet Free State Stars in a Premier Soccer League clash at Peter Mokaba Stadium today.

The Brazilians ended 2010 as the PSL leaders but have let slip what was a 10-point gap at the top to the extent that they now find themselves in fourth place, six points behind leaders Orlando Pirates.

Sundowns’ poor form has led to the resignation under pressure of Spanish coach Antonio Lopez Habas, with Zimbabwean Ian Gorowa stepping in as caretaker.

A further 2-1 defeat against Pirates last weekend increased the pressure on Downs.

Free State Stars have collected four points from their last two games, Steve Komphela’s charges drawing 3-3 against away against Santos before beating Lamontville Golden Arrows 1-0.

Sundowns defender Matthew Booth said the Brazilians have put their defeat against Pirates behind them and are ready to go out for a win this afternoon to re-establish their title credentials.

“We are looking forward to doing well against Free State Stars. We hope to do well to get our season back on track,” Booth said.

“Yes, we lost that match to Pirates, but they were not handed the win on a sliver platter. It was not easy for Pirates.”

“It is not yet time to bow our heads down and give up. We still have 10 games to play but to achieve our goal we have to show an element of a winning mentality and consistency,” Booth said.

Stars captain Kennedy Mweene said they will treat Saturday’s clash with caution against a wounded but still star-studded Sundowns. “We want to win this match at all costs because we know what a defeat will do to our goal of finishing the season in the top eight,” the experienced Zambian international goalkeeper said.

Sundowns have striker Katlego Mphela back in their camp after almost a month spent awol, trying to force a move to Europe. It is not clear if the Bafana front man will walk straight back into the first team, though, and a place on the bench seems more likely.

The Brazilians will miss Lebohang Mokoena, whose hamstring injury picked up against Pirates will rule the skilful forward out for six weeks. Winger Franklin Cale twisted an ankle during training this week and is also unavailable.

Zimbabwean striker Nyasha Mushekwi has scored three goals in three games for the Brazilians, picking up the mantle in the absence of Mphela.

Second-placed Kaizer Chiefs, who are just two points adrift of Pirates, will aim to keep the pressure on at the top when they travel to Athlone Stadium to meet Santos tomorrow.

Santos have suffered three successive defeats against Mamelodi Sundowns, Ajax Cape Town and Wits University and have failed to win in four games, conceding 13 goals.

Orlando Pirates coach Ruud Krol has some selection challenges ahead of the club’s clash against AmaZulu at Moses Mabhida Stadium tomorrow, with winger Mark Mayambela ruled out through injury, while star midfielder Andile Jali faces a late fitness test.

Jali suffered a hamstring injury in Pirates’ win over Sundowns last week and did not train for most of this week.

Today: Wits University v Mpumalanga Black Aces (Milpark, 3.30 pm), Free State Stars v Mamelodi Sundowns (Peter Mokaba Stadium, 3.30 pm – live on SuperSport 4), Platinum Stars v Bloemfontein Celtic (Moruleng Stadium, 3.30 pm – live on SABC1), SuperSport United v Maritzburg United (Loftus, 6 pm – live on SuperSport 4), Vasco Da Gama v Ajax Cape Town (Athlone Stadium, 8.15 pm – live on SABC1)

Tomorrow: Orlando Pirates v AmaZulu (Orlando Stadium, 3.30 pm – live on SABC1), Santos v Kaizer Chiefs (Athlone Stadium, 3.30 pm – live on SuperSport 4), Lamontville Golden Arrows v Moroka Swallows (Chatsworth Stadium, 3.30 pm)



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