Mamelodi Sundowns coach Rhulani Mokwena highlighted the importance of not conceding goals despite his team playing to two goalless draws.
Mamelodi Sundowns coach Rhulani Mokwena highlighted the importance of not conceding goals despite his team playing to two goalless draws.Cape Town – Mamelodi Sundowns coach Rulani Mokwena feels consecutive clean sheets are of greater significance than firing blanks in the back-to-back Premiership games in the past week.
Sundowns will be away to Golden Arrows at the Princess Magogo Stadium tonight, and Mokwena is undeterred by the back-to-back 0-0 draws against Cape Town City and relegation-threatened Swallows FC.
The match against City was the first time that Sundowns played as the 2022/23 champions, and since then, Mokwena has called several players who were returning from long-term injuries.
These fit-again players include Ethiopian Abubeker Nassir, Uruguayan Gaston Sirino, Bongani Zungu, Moroccan Abdelmounaim Boutouil and Thapelo Morena.
“The recovering of the players is so nice to see as Nassir, Zungu, Gaston, as well as AB (Boutouil) and Thapelo returned to the pitch,” said Mokwena.
“We have to play these games, and we have to also try to make sure the squad is close to each other (in terms of match readiness).”
Terrific goal-against record
Sundowns have a terrific goal-against record this season, and after 25 games, have conceded only nine goals. The next best team is TS Galaxy with 16 goals after the same number of matches.
The clean sheets have been overshadowed by the team’s inability to score goals in the last two league matches.
“When we defend well and when we keep clean sheets, it’s because we defend very well from the top and the game is about boxes,” said Mokwena.
“Modern football is all about boxes: what you do on one side and what you do on the other side affects what happens on the other side.
“It’s always a collective effort. Congratulations to the team for those miniature types of achievements and milestones, because it’s always a reflection of a collective.”
Mokwena was pleased with the team’s creative ability in recent matches and the frequent final-third entries.
“We created so many chances and we had many final-third entries,” said Mokwena.
“I think we won a lot of duels because this game is about long balls and second balls. We won almost all the duels and with aggression.
“There will never be a game that I will be in charge of at Sundowns and we have no aggression – believe me, there’s no chance.”
Arrows will take encouragement from the fact that Sundowns’ momentum has slowed down after their confirmation as league champions for a sixth consecutive time.
Seventh-placed Arrows, who are on 32 points, are on a three-match unbeaten run, and have also kept three clean sheets in that period.
Arrows coach Vusimuzi Vilakazi is aiming for consistency and is not overly concerned about log positions.
“Our focus, for now, is specifically being consistent in our games,” said Vilakazi.
“I am happy that in the previous three games, we didn’t lose. We’ve managed a win, a draw and a win.
“We need to be more consistent. If we focus on each game as it comes, we will find ourselves doing very well.
“The Sundowns clash will be a different ball game altogether, because it’ll be two teams who aim for football-based possession.”
Meanwhile, two relegation-doomed teams, Marumo Gallants and Chippa United, will cross paths in Polokwane today.
Marumo Gallants assistant coach Raymond Mdaka believes their defence could hold the key to their top-flight survival.
Dylan Kerr’s team are unbeaten in their last five league encounters. They bagged nine points out of a possible 15, and have moved above Maritzburg United into 15th.
The match will be a baptism of fire for Siyabulela Gwambi, who has been appointed as interim coach for the remainder of the campaign after replacing Kurt Lentjies at Chippa.