Great escape artists Sundowns leave Mokwena mystified

RONWEN Williams and Peter Shalulile helped Sundowns to a great escape against the University of Pretoria on Friday night. | PHANDO JIKELO

RONWEN Williams and Peter Shalulile helped Sundowns to a great escape against the University of Pretoria on Friday night. | PHANDO JIKELO

Published Apr 14, 2024


IT seems there is no end to Mamelodi Sundowns’ dramatic trail of great escapes after Ronwen Williams’ rescue act secured their passage to the Nedbank Cup semi-finals on Friday night.

For the umpteenth time, Sundowns dominated a match. Still, again they sneaked home on the back of a 4-3 penalty shootout win over second-tier side University of Pretoria in their quarter-final clash at the Lucas Moripe Stadium.

After Lucas Ribeiro of Sundowns and Delano Abrahams of AmaTuks made it 1-1 in the first half, extra time could not separate the teams in this Tshwane Derby.

Sundowns’ trail of sneaky wins over the last while includes slender 1-0 margins over the DStv Premiership’s weakest teams, Richards Bay and Cape Town Spurs, last month.

Sandwiched between these matches, Sundowns played Tanzanian outfit Young Africans twice in their Champions League two-legged quarter-final and failed to score each time. In the end, they sneaked through 3-2 on penalties.

After the match against AmaTuks, Sundowns coach Rulani Mokwena was mystified that his side needed another “Houdini act” to win the match after dominating so much.

“Why did we even go to penalties in this game? I mean, first 15 minutes should’ve been 3-0, 4-0 and then we even had more chances in the second half,” lamented Mokwena.

“We were a little bit unlucky also with (Thembinkosi) Lorch’s last-minute chance.”

Despite saying that his team could have scored four goals in the opening quarter of an hour, Mokwena said the match was “so difficult”.

However, he was relieved that the team cleared this hurdle after falling to Stellenbosch FC in the corresponding fixture last season.

“It is so difficult. It is a cup game, number one, and so difficult to control,” said Mokwena.

“It is a team that plays so open, so stretched. The long balls stretch you also, but okay, the most important thing is that we’re in the semi-finals. We’re one stage better than last season.

“We took a lot of risks even with our subs. We took off (Aubrey) Modiba and Grant (Kekana). Also, we put on a lot of offensive players, so we went for it. No one can say we didn’t go for it. We tried.”

It will be great cause for concern for Sundowns’ technical staff that once again their star-studded team tried hard to win a match in which they enjoyed so much possession. The statistics show that Sundowns enjoyed 80% ball possession for most of the match.

AmaTuks coach Tlisane Motaung had special praise for their Namibian goalkeeper Edward Maova.

“Yes, in certain moments they broke the line, that’s why our goalkeeper is the Player of the Match. He saved us a couple of times. I mean, you’re playing against one of the best teams on the continent,” said Motaung.

“I thought they (his players) stuck in and were disciplined. They applied tactical things that we worked on and things that we thought Sundowns would bring.”

It will be back to the grindstone on Monday evening for Sundowns, who play Moroka Swallows at Dobsonville in the league before heading for Tunis against Esperance in the Champions League on Saturday.