For the first time in a long time, I feel that Mamelodi Sundowns’ loss against Kaizer Chiefs on Saturday should be blamed squarely on their coach, Pitso ‘Jingles’ Mosimane.
The reason for this is simple: keeping Khama Billiat on the pitch for too long. I mean the Zimbabwean forward was nowhere to be seen after opening the scoring for the Brazilians in the first half. His poor performance was understandable, though, given that he had spent some time on the side lines due to injury, and therefore lacked match fitness.
Mosimane’s insistence on sticking to Billiat exposed his favouritism towards some of his players. Just the fact that Billiat started ahead of Colombian Leonardo Castro, who had been playing during Billiat’s absence, should tell you all that you need to know. And as if starting Castro on the bench wasn’t bad enough, when seeing that there was a need to add another striker in the second half, Mosimane introduced Ivorian Yannick Zakri, who is yet to prove why he deserves to be a ‘Downs player, instead of Castro.
I found that move shocking for two reasons: the first being that Zakri was being thrown into the deep end against one of the giants of the Premier Soccer League, which defended solidly in that match. The second being that Castro, who was an important component of the famous ‘CBD’ which conquered not only the PSL but the entire continent just last season, was being left out in one of the biggest matches of Sundowns’ title-defending campaign.
I find it worrying that Sundowns have made a habit of dropping points in the league of late, in fact they haven’t won in their last four Absa Premiership encounters, and their last win was back in late February when they beat Wits 2-0, believe it or not.
Even more worrying is their coach’s favouritism towards certain players and sudden change of heart about the ‘tried and tested’.
But I guess them not having it easy this season only makes for an interesting title challenge, as there are currently five teams (if we are to include Sundowns, I mean who wouldn’t?) who have a realistic chance of winning the league, in Cape Town City, Chiefs, Bidvest Wits, and SuperSport United.
It’s never a smart thing to write Sundowns off, of course, but I have a feeling that they may be getting a bit complacent, knowing that they still have a good number of games in hand and are not too far behind the log leaders in terms of points accumulated.
I mean in all honesty, on another day, they would have made sure that they beat Chiefs, given that Amakhosi are no longer as invincible as they were a few years ago, especially when playing at home.
And it’s not like they had put on a great performance on the night, in fact they enjoyed very little ball possession for a team who were playing at home. Add to that the fact that they themselves had been struggling to win a match before Sundowns came to town – they had not won in their last three – and you’ll see that a slightly more determined ‘Downs would have had no problems brushing them aside.
I’m also tempted to have a go at Bangaly Soumahoro, whose faux pas, in the form of an own goal, gifted Chiefs the win, but I’d rather stick to criticizing the man who decided to field him in the first place.
*Picture taken from: kwesesports.com.