Will Downs march on against out of sorts Gallants?

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Katlego Otladisa is expected play a crucial role for Gallants in their game against Sundowns. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix
Katlego Otladisa is expected play a crucial role for Gallants in their game against Sundowns. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

SPORT


“Worlds apart” is the best way to describe Mamelodi Sundowns and Marumo Gallants.

The two teams are on opposite sides of the spectrum. Sundowns are the best team in the DStv Premiership. On Friday, they were confirmed as winners of the league’s Q1 innovation at the completion of the first eight league games of the season. Today they take on Gallants, the worst side in the top flight.

READ: Marumo still in a shambles

The two clubs’ worlds will collide this afternoon at the Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane in a match in which the out of sorts Gallants face annihilation by the dominant Brazilians. Downs have steam-rolled every team they have faced so far. As proof of this, in the past few weeks, Sundowns:

  • Have qualified for the group stage of the CAF Champions League;
  • Have clinched the MTN8 title undefeated;
  • Are yet to concede a goal in the league; and
  • Have pocketed R1.5 million after clinching the league’s Q1 innovation.

These incredible feats suggest that Sundowns are in cruise control. They are typically slow starters but this season they were quick out the starting blocks.

Manqoba Mngqithi, one of the three coaches, tried to sum up the secret to their superb run.

Mngqithi told City Press this week that: 

It boils down to the vision of the club. The club has always wanted to be in this space where we compete for every trophy.

“It [the vision] requires the technical team, the players and everyone at the club to adhere to the vision. It has come because of hard work, sacrifice and commitment.”

Impenetrable defence

Incredibly, Sundowns are yet to concede a goal in the eight league matches they have played so far, scoring 13 goals in the process.

It is an open secret that they want to finish the season as the invincibles – without a single loss – and their current performances are on another level.

Veteran stopper and captain Denis Onyango has played in six of the eight games while other keepers Kennedy Mweene and Reyaad Pieterse have managed a game each.

Interestingly, Onyango and Mweene are on the wrong side of 30 but their experience has kept the youngsters in the squad on the bench. The 36-year-olds have pushed Ricardo Goss (27) and Pieterse (29) way down the pecking order.

After helping the Brazilians clinch their maiden MTN8 trophy after a penalty shoot-out with Cape Town City last weekend, Onyango credited their solid goalkeeping department for the cohesion.

“Every day, when we show up for training, everyone knows they have to bring their A-game. No one can afford to relax even for a single day. You really have to be at your best and that’s how we push each other. It’s healthy competition,” he said.

African exploits

The Brazilians have advanced to the group stages of the premier inter-club competition for a record seventh consecutive season.

Their recent 4-2 aggregate win over AS Maniema Union of the Democratic Republic of Congo in a preliminary round match ensured that they maintained their status as one of African club football’s heavyweights. The group stages are scheduled for next February. The draw will be held in Cairo, Egypt, on December 23.

Meanwhile, despite being shambolic at home, Gallants have surprisingly done well in their CAF Confederation Cup campaign. They reached the last round before the group stages of the tournament.

READ: No more advantage playing on home soil

But they need to get their house in order if they want to progress, as off the field challenges, including this week’s kit controversy, have put a spotlight on them. In fact, controversy has followed them since last season when they traded as Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila. Then they were synonymous with player strikes and non-payments.

Not much has changed, even after changing their name.

Earlier in the season there was the jersey debacle involving midfielder Siphelele Ntshangase.

The team didn’t have a jersey with Ntshangase’s name and number printed on it during their 2-2 draw with Royal AM. Last month they were in crisis mode when they didn’t have a qualified coach to take charge of their Confed Cup games.

Following the exits of coach Sébastien Migné and his assistant Jean Luscuito, Gallants were in a fix as Mpho Maleka and David Mathebula did not have the required CAF coaching badges to be in charge of the game.

Safa coaching instructor Raymond Mdaka stepped in to rescue the situation. He remains in charge of the team.

READ: Marumo Gallants appoint ‘temporary’ coach for CAF

This week their match against AmaZulu was abandoned due to clashing kits. League rules state that the onus is on the away team to ensure that their kit does not clash with that of their hosts.

These own-goals will compound issues for Gallants who are sitting at the bottom of the table and are going nowhere slowly. They go into today’s game as the underdogs, a tag which might work for them as the pressure is on Sundowns to continue with their dominance.

They will be looking to winger Katlego Otladisa to unlock and breach the Brazilians’ stubborn defence for the first time.


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Gomolemo Motshwane  

Sport journalist

+27 11 713 9001
gomolemo.motshwane@citypress.co.za
www.citypress.co.za
69 Kingsway Rd, Auckland Park
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