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‘Highlands will grow after loss’

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“I thought that the boys were fantastic today, (and) from a tactical perspective to see a team like Sundowns park the bus was a bit strange”

HIGHLANDS Park coach Owen da Gama believes that their loss to Mamelodi Sundowns will grow the team’s character, a week after he slammed his players for showing what he termed an “amateur attitude”.

The Lions of the North were shocking in their 2-0 loss to SuperSport United at Makhulong Stadium on Sunday last week, and Da Gama let his players have it.

They responded strongly in the 1-0 loss to Sundowns in the Nedbank Cup quarter-finals in Tembisa on Saturday.

“I thought that the boys were fantastic today, (and) from a tactical perspective to see a team like Sundowns park the bus was a bit strange,” Da Gama said. “The boys played really, really well.

“In the first half we struggled with the wing play, but we started shifting very well.

“The unfortunate thing that happened to us were the forced substitutions we had to make and (Peter) Shalulile had to finish the match with an injury.

“The team is growing, we will get there. We need to learn from situations like this.

“To lose from two schoolboy errors is rather unfortunate. We take (it) on the chin and we keep on learning.

“I have always said that this is a journey. It’s not an event.

“These are teams who invest in their squad a lot and have experience, (so) for us to put on a performance like this against them was really good. I am really proud of the boys because they are really hurting after this.”

However, even though Highlands held their own against Sundowns, even bossing the match for a large part of it, they still made those two mistakes that proved costly.

A slip from Ryan Rae and loss of possession in the middle of the park led to Keletso Makgalwa punishing Highlands and taking Sundowns into the semi-finals.

“We will regroup, learn from this and work hard,” Da Gama said.

“This is where men are created, this is where players are created. When they make these mistakes, you stand by them, push them harder, and they learn from these mistakes.”

There was a strong emphasis on hygiene at Makhulong Stadium on Saturday with the coronavirus spreading like wildfire across the world. On Saturday there were 38 confirmed cases in the country. Hand sanitisers and wet wipes were given out to ensure good hygiene.

But other leagues across Europe where the virus has affected more people have been suspended, including the English Premier League, Italy’s Serie A and Spain’s La Liga, among others.

But the Premier Soccer League has continued with business as usual as the virus isn’t an epidemic on the continent just yet.

“Once it becomes an epidemic, then it becomes a problem,” Da Gama said. “I think that the authorities will sit down, take note of that and make a decision.

“I am becoming very paranoid, to be honest with you. I feel it for the crowd, I feel it for everybody, but I am sure that the authorities will really look at it deep and make the right calls.”