Downs flat but Birds fly
SUNDOWNS coach Johan Neeskens blamed his team's flat-footed defence for letting Moroka Swallows score three goals against them on Saturday night - two of them in the first eight minutes.
Sundowns came away from the first leg of their MTN8 semifinal at the Lucas Moripe stadium with a 3-3 draw.
Neeskens said that Swallows' pacy forward line had been identified as their danger point - and that the Downs defence had been told not to defend "in a line".
"I think we gave the first two goals away much too easily," Neeskens said. "Their wingers are very quick due to Siyabonga Nomvethe's movement. So you can never stand in a line to mark them.
"I thought our left-back [Punch Masanamela] was sleeping a bit for the first goal on the counter-attack. And for the second, we told the players who to mark [from a corner] and the player who should have marked [Ashraf Hendricks] was totally unmarked. So it was childish how we conceded these two goals.
"It was poor defending."
But Neeskens defended his decision to retain Esrom Nyandoro in central defence, where he struggled to match the pacy Birds' attackers.
The Downs coach said Nyandoro had come into the position when players were unavailable, and he wanted to keep the continuity of a winning line-up.
"Clayton Daniels also plays in that position. But I said to him that I wanted for everybody to be very competitive and give 100% in practice every day. In the pre-season he was not reaching a level that he should have and I think [recently] he was also a bit relaxed knowing he was suspended for two games."
While pleased with the result, Birds coach Zeca Marques conceded that his side continued to lack the spreading of passes of playmaker David Mathebula, who has not played this season because of a knee injury.
"Mathebula gives you something different - different creativity, and we've missed that, there's no question about it," Marques said. "But fortunately for us we've got Lerato Chabangu on form, Felix Obada is peaking at the right time.
"We've got Bennett Chenene, who in my opinion had a stormer of a match. So I think the guys are getting their act together now and there's a new sense of belief going forward."
Marques said he expected to have striker Katlego Mashego, signed from Golden Arrows, available for their Absa Premiership match against Ajax Cape Town at the Dobsonville stadium on Wednesday.
"I would like to see him on the bench or even in the starting XI. As far as I know, the deal's 90% done," he said.