Manqoba Mngqithi, Rulani Mokwena and Steve Komphela seem to be creating something special at Mamelodi Sundowns.
Last season, they cruised to the League title, with the prospect of finishing a season unbeaten for a long part of the campaign. When you fill the shoes of someone like Pitso Mosimane, winning the league title alone may not be enough because that was something his teams managed to do consistently.
The one damning indictment of his time at Sundowns was the failure to win this one trophy, the MTN8.
0 – Sundowns failed to win the MTN8 trophy during Mosimane’s time at the club, the only domestic trophy that eluded him.
The solitary final appearance in 2016 was his best finish at the club. But to pin Sundowns’ Top8 malaise on him would be missing the bigger picture. Even before the PSL era began, the club only won the Top8 title twice between 1972 and 1996 (in 1988 and 1990). And now, as we watch the 22nd edition of the tournament in the PSL era, Sundowns have won only one title (the 2007 SAA Supa 8). It’s not for a lack of trying:
5 – Sundowns have reached the Top8 final five times. Only SuperSport United, Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates (7 each) have reached the final on more occasions.
A sixth final awaits, but only if they can get past the peculiar side that is Golden Arrows.
Arrows have scored more goals than any other PSL side in all competitions this season (11), but they have also conceded the most of all sides (12).
The first leg against Sundowns was a classic approach for a team faced with the task of stopping Sundowns. Either keep it tight and hope to nick a winner late on, or if you are adventurous enough to take the lead, you then sit back and protect it as if your lives depend on it. The second strategy seemed to be working for Arrows, until there were just 5 minutes left to play.
0 – Arrows are the only top-flight side yet to keep a clean sheet in all competitions this season.
Should that form continue on Tuesday (18:00), it’s hard to see how they will win this one, given how stingy Sundowns’ defence has been. Going back to the end of last season, Sundowns have now kept eight consecutive league clean sheets, a new club record for them in the PSL era. Oddly, their defensive form in Cup games is in contrast to their defensive form in league games.
10 – This will be Sundowns’ 10th Cup game since Easter, and they have only kept two clean sheets in the previous nine.
There is a weakness that Arrows can exploit, but they will need to be clinical if and when they get openings. The history of this fixture doesn’t favour them either – whether it is a league game or a Cup game. In the league Arrows have won just one of the last ten games against Sundowns, and the Cup record is a mirror image of the same:
10 – This will be the 10th meeting between the sides in Cup games in the PSL era, and Arrows have won just one (one draw and seven Sundowns wins).
Swallows v Cape Town City
Swallows and Cape Town City meet in the other semi-final on Wednesday. Both teams are stuck in a puddle of mediocrity, and it’s hard to say who is having a worse run. The fact that they have faced each other twice in the last month, and been inseparable in 180 minutes, indicates we will likely witness another cautious impasse on Wednesday night.
500 & 300 – Swallows are approaching 500 minutes without a goal, while it’s been 300 minutes since The Citizens last found the net.
By Opta Jabu