Mamelodi Sundowns head coach Rulani Mokwena has explained how they managed to deal with the threat from the "aggressive" Royal AM to eventually win 3-0.
Sundowns, Mokwena admitted, did not have a good first half, as they could not deal with the high press and pressure from Thwihli Thwahla, who had a dominant first-half.
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However, the Brazilians were clinical in front of goal as Neo Maema gave them the lead just before the half-time and that allowed the technical team to make adjustments.
"First half not so good, but more because of the opposition and not because we were not in it. They were sharp, aggressive and we had to match that a little bit more so that we can have more dominance and control of the ball, which we did a lot more in the second half," Mokwena told journalists in a post-match briefing.
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"Congratulations to the boys for fighting and hanging in there in a very difficult first half, we were good teammates and we fought very, very hard for the badge.
"I think we fought, we ran and did the best that we could. We just had a couple of issues, one (of them) was our build up; we had to restructure a bit (because) we couldn’t find the pass to the next line just behind Ruzaigh (Gamildien) and (Lesvin) Stoffels but that’s because they targeted a bit more on Mothobi (Mvala) than we thought.
"We also struggled a little bit on the left side, the early yellow card for Mosa (Lebusa) also put him a little bit under pressure. When we couldn’t get Mothobi or Mosa on the left side, we struggled a little bit with the fluidity of build up, but once we changed it a little bit we looked a little better."
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Despite the physicality brought to the game by AM, Mokwena did not bring on industrious midfielder Andile Jali from the bench, who is renowned for his ability to command the midfield. Instead, the Brazilians looked for attacking options, as the likes of Themba Zwane, Bradley Ralani, Lebohang Maboe and Gaston Sirino were brought on in the second stanza.
"Pitso’s position was a little bit closer, and also the subs were very good. Mshishi was good, [Bradley] Ralani was good, Lebo was good, he started a little bit slow but got into it and Gaston was very, very good. Team work, no one is bigger than this football club. We just keep trying to serve it," he added.
Jali made his first appearance, a late cameo against Maritzburg United with Sundowns already 5-0 up, since he was hauled off early in the second stanza in the MTN8 semi-final first leg against Orlando Pirates.
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