Following his team’s loss to Stellenbosch FC, Mamelodi Sundowns coach Rulani Mokwena says Stellies deserved their win because they made use of the opportunities they had.
This comes after Steve Barker’s side came back from a goal down to beat Sundowns 2-1 at Athlone Stadium on Saturday to reach the semifinals of the Nedbank Cup for the first time in the club’s history.
Sundowns took the lead through an unfortunate own goal from goalkeeper Lee Langeveldt. Aubrey Modiba’s long range shot hit the upright and hit Langeveldt on the back and into the net in the 39th minute.
Nine minutes later Iqraam Rayners intercepted a back pass from Teboho Mokoena and rounded goalkeeper Dennis Onyango before putting the ball into an empty net. And just before the hour mark, Rayners punished Sundowns again from another mistake at the back to complete his brace and help Stellies beat the defending champions.
“I thought we lost a lot of the duels, and it’s just been very difficult to find a bit of rhythm in our passes. They forced us into mistakes and we made two big mistakes, they punished us. Today we didn’t have the rhythm and this competitive intensity, but we’ll get it right. I am very proud of the players, what they have done this season has been incredible and as I have said so many times, despite the pressures, despite how difficult it is, it’s very tough at the moment. We play against every opponent who has time to prepare for us and we only have one or two days to prepare for an opponent physically,” said Mokwena after the game.
“Opponents only play one game per week, of course the element of freshness comes in and you could see it in certain moments today. Tactically they had time to review and come up with plans and solutions, and you can see it also with all the oppositions that we’ve played so far. But it’s not for us to find excuses, there’s no excuses, we have to win football matches and when we don’t win, we have to see why we didn’t win. In moments that are a little bit like this, you think if the opponent is better, you take the defeat and you move,” he added.
“We lost a very important game, a game that we knew we could not lose but that’s the life of big teams and we have to get used to it. What I will echo, not a lot of credit is given to this team for the amount of work that they’ve done, and for being clearly (in my opinion and maybe for them it’s enough) the best team in the league. And when you hear opposition coaches who also have a competitive streak in themselves, saying that clearly they’re the second best team in the country, it is because Sundowns is the benchmark and by far the best team in the country, but that’s not good enough, you’re only as good as your last performance in football.
“We’ve got to prove every single day, every single training session and every single match that we are the best team in the country and that means we have the responsibility and the pressure of playing under that mark with that tag behind us. It’s not easy, it’s the hardest thing but it’s the best thing to give you the competitive urge. Unfortunately we didn’t have that today and we lost to a better side on the day,” concluded Mokwena.
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