If Mamelodi Sundowns had any lessons to learn from yesterday’s Telkom Knockout encounter at Peter Mokaba Stadium it is that playing beautiful football doesn’t always win matches.
Even after a great display of wonderful passing, reminiscent of their shoeshine and piano days, the former African champions crashed out of the tournament following a shocking 2-0 defeat at the hands of struggling Baroka FC.
Even though Baroka progressed to the next round, courtesy of a first-half penalty and a second-half blunder by Downs goalie Riyaad Pieterse, there was no mistaking the sheer class of Pitso Mosimane’s boys.
With a midfield marshalled by Andile Jali, Sundowns moved the ball around the field with ease, switching play from side to side and displaying fluid movement off the ball. Mosimane’s midfield looked compact, with central midfielders Jali, captain Tiyani Mabunda and Themba Zwane taking control in the early stages of the game.
Baroka, playing without the guidance of coach Wedson Nyirenda, who travelled back to Zambia due to a family bereavement, chose to sit back and allow their live-wire wide midfielder Talent Chawapiwa to take on the Sundowns men and bring his team-mates into the game with his deft runs.
Chawapiwa looked dangerous when in possession, flying down the right wing, but his moves were largely ineffective because of a rather static Baroka front line who didn’t give the Zimbabwean international many options to play the ball.
Baroka faced a mammoth task against a resolute, well-organised and disciplined defence marshalled by the cool Brazilian Ricardo Nascimento.
In the centre of the park, Jali and Zwane took control, effectively spraying passes through the middle and bringing wide midfielders Lebohang Maboe and Gaston Sirino into the game.
Maboe looked menacing and brave with his runs, taking on and turning Baroka defenders. Perhaps this is one game Mosimane and his technical team could have gambled by starting with Jeremy Brockie. Baroka are the kind of team that wouldn’t do too well against a bustling striker like Brockie. Although he has been going through an El Niño of sorts in front of goal, he is deadly in the air and his swashbuckling style would unsettle any defence.
Brockie came on for Toni Silva in the second half, but, aside from one header that he sent over the bar, he was largely ineffective due to poor supply.
While Sundowns were in control for most of the match, they failed to create any real chances to threaten their opponents. Instead, most of their attacks were broken down by a resolute Baroka defence, where skipper Mduduzi Mdantsane, Bonginkosi Makume, Matome Mabeba and Ananias Gebhardt had a good game.
The first real chance of the game came in the 21st minute when, after an exchange of passes from the right, Chawapiwa found himself chasing a loose ball in the danger box, which was handled by a Sundowns defender.
Referee Victor Gomes awarded a penalty that Mdantsane coolly slotted in, sending the home supporters into raptures.
Sundowns didn’t lose their composure, though, continuing with their neat passing game that always promised a breakthrough, but sadly didn’t.
Matome Kgoetyane, who came in for Chawapiwa in the 62nd minute, must have been shocked when the lame low cross he put into the box in the 67th minute found the back of the net after Pieterse mistakenly parried the ball into his own net on the near post.
With the legions of travelling Sundowns fans stunned into silence and Baroka’s brass band in full voice, it looked almost impossible for the Mamelodi lads to come back.
In a sweet spirit of the game after the final whistle, Baroka players walked across to the Sundowns fans, who responded with energetic zeal to salute their victorious opponents.
Baroka will do well to take this kind of form into the league, where they’ve been struggling to find the back of the net. – Mukurukuru Media