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Pitso eyes bigger picture

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Sundowns have only played 15 Absa Premiership matches but are incredibly in third place on the 18-team table

TOOTH AND NAIL: Kurt Lentjies of Chippa United, and Andile Jali of Mamelodi Sundowns compete for the ball during their 2019 Nedbank Cup match on Saturday. Picture: Deryck Foster BackpagePix

MAMELODI Sundowns seem to be destined to win no local knockout silverware this season after being eliminated from the Nedbank Cup, but coach Pitso Mosimane is not going to be scratching his bald head in disappointment for too long.

The Brazilains’ last gasp 2-1 defeat to Chippa United will – after all – serve to give the country’s reigning league champions some kind of a breather from a hectic schedule.

Speaking after their loss at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Saturday, Mosimane made it clear that his team are still on track when it comes to ‘the bigger picture’.

Continental glory

Such is Mosimane’s passion for continental glory that local competitions suddenly seem no longer glamourous for him and the defeat to Chippa has him looking forward to rest days that will ensure his team is fresh for the title challenge in the Caf Champions League currently under way, as well as ensuring they participate in the next one by either winning the domestic championship or finishing second.

“When you look at the positives from what happened,” Mosimane said after the match “I think it releases one more day for the programme that we have because we’ve got the league on Tuesday (tomorrow) and games in hand that we have to finish.”

Sundowns have only played 15 Absa Premiership matches but are incredibly in third place on the 18-team table, a mere three points behind leaders Bidvest Wits while trailing second-placed Orlando Pirates by just one. The two sides have played 18 games already.

“On Friday we are playing a top team (Asec Mimosas) from Abidjan in Cote D’ Ivoire,” Mosimane continued “In that game, we have to win. The same for Tuesday’s (tomorrow’s) game. It’s a bit tough, but we have to accept it and we’ve been handling it well.”

Their supporters who are accustomed to success would have been disappointed by the Nedbank Cup exit. Mosimane would like them to remember that such tournaments, especially the Nedbank Cup, are unlike the league.

“In cups like these anything is possible. Obviously we are disappointed that we didn’t win but this one was not meant for us,” Mosimane said. “I am unhappy with the results but not the play. We played well, and just conceded goals at critical times.”

Despite their shortcomings in the striking department, Sundowns’ aspirations of conquering the continent remain on course. Mosimane has bemoaned the lack of a target man, as striker Jeremy Brockie, Phakamani Mahlambi and Ali Meza have taken a bit longer to find their footing at the Chloorkop-based side – while they recently shipped out Liverpool product Toni Siva to Egyptian side Al Ittihad Alexandria.

Mahlambi did, however, prove what he can offer the Brazilians as he slotted home a half-volley to give Downs the equaliser following a lovely diagonal pass from marksman Gaston Sirino. Despite those hurdles, the former Bafana coach was still thrilled with his team’s performance

“In the last 30-40 minutes, I thought that they’d be stronger than us as we played a well-rested team,” Mosimane said. But we were stronger at the end, it just shows the mentality of the team, and the will to win. They believe that they can win. It also shows the physical side of the game because I saw some of their players cramping.”