Mamelodi Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane has warned that his side’s win over Kaizer Chiefs is not a league decider.
“People who can talk about the league are Bidvest Wits,” Mosimane said at the post match press conference after a late goal handed the defending champions a 2-1 victory over Amakhosi at FNB Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Mosimane based his statement on the fact that his side will once again have a divided attention juggling between the domestic programme and the CAF Champions League where they have qualified for the group stage.
“As from today, we’ll play every three days. There’ll only be a gap of four days and that will be when we are travelling in Africa [for CAF assignments].
“It’s about 32 games to play from now. So it’s [another] season for us.
“[Wits] They are in a good position with no games in three games.”
Former champions Wits beat Free State Stars 2-1 on Saturday night to tighten their grip atop the Absa Premiership standings.
But it was a rare wild celebration from Mosimane that suggested that the win over Chiefs was massive by all accounts.
The 54-year-old made a half-pitch sprint from the bench to join his players in celebration of Lebohang Maboe’s late goal.
The Brazilians’ mentor was almost resigned to yet another draw with the clock ticking away. Sundowns have drawn seven matches this season.
“It’s about the moment and in a big game you want the three points. Can I also run once?” said Mosimane in jest.
“The three points were very big because not many teams will come here and win.”
The victory catapulted Sundowns to fourth on the log but the Brazilians still have two games in hand, while the defeat reminded Chiefs what they were still up against if they still harbour hopes of ending their long wait for a league title.
Mosimane admitted his side was up against a different Chiefs, with a stronger organisation than the Amakhosi that had been blowing hot and cold under coach Giovanni Solinas, who was fired late last year.
“A draw could have been a fair result but mistakes are done [and] you force the mistakes. I feel sorry for Virgil. I hope he keeps his confidence,” he said in reference to Amakhosi goalkeeper Virgil Vries’ howler that led to the winning goal with nine minutes remaining.
The Namibian international goalie misjudged the flight of Layle Lakay’s long ball from his team’s half, which fell on the path of the advancing Maboe to poke home.
Chiefs had not conceded until Saturday’s game in all three matches – across the Premiership and the CAF Confederation Cup – since Middendorp took over from Solinas last month.
Vries kept goal in two of those with clean sheets against SuperSport United (1-0) and Elgeco Plus of Madagascar (3-0) in the CAF Confederation Cup.
But now Chiefs have been dealt a heavy blow with Middendorp disclosing that “the season is finished” for his No 1 Itumeleng Khune, who is nursing a shoulder injury.
While Vries’ costly mistake would leave any coach hopping mad especially in a game that was headed for a draw, the German mentor put a brave face that “it was not a big deal”.
“Finger-pointing business not from the coach, not from the players.
Of course the disappointment is big but definitely supporting each other,” said Middendorp.
Mosimane admitted that it was a difficult game coming from the holidays.
“To play without momentum is not good but everyone has to play their first game. It took a while to figure it out. We went a bit down after the first goal.”
Anthony Laffor stunned Chiefs as early as the second minute when he rounded off a move he initiated with Thapelo Morena down the right channel.
But judging by Chiefs’ persistence and neat interchanges involving Lebogang Manyama, George Maluleka and Leonardo Castro, it was inevitable that Sundowns would give in.
Amakhosi were rewarded when stand-in captain Willard Katsande equalised on the quarter-hour mark.
A foul by Tiyani Mabunda on Henrick Ekstein led to Katsande heading home a Khama Billiat delivery from the resultant free kick just outside the Sundowns goal area.
But again, Amakhosi we left to rue some missed chances that could have perhaps wrapped the up the game in their favour given how they enjoyed a few spells of dominance against the side they held to a 1-1 draw in their first round fixture in Pretoria in August.
Sundowns will travel to Nigeria on Monday to kick-start their CAF Champions League group stage campaign against Lobi Stars in Enugu on Friday.
Chiefs have a midweek Premiership fixture, against pacesetters Bidvest Wits in Milpark on Wednesday before they embark on a trip to Zambia to face Zesco United in their Confederation Cup play-off at Levy Mwanawasa Stadium next Sunday.