• Are Sundowns in need of another star?

    Sundowns minus Billiat, Tau

    It wasn’t the only contributing factor, but the absence of Khama Billiat and Percy Tau was frighteningly evident in Mamelodi Sundowns’ 1-0 loss to minnows AS Togo in their CAF Champions League group game, writes MARSHALL GOUTS.

    In what should have been a routine victory on the road for the former CAF Champions League winners, it turned out to be a disappointing performance which more than highlighted Pitso Mosimane’s side’s shortcomings without Billiat and Tau.

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    Now, I’m not suggesting that the star attacking duo’s absence was the only factor that derailed Sundowns in Togo, but the way that they compensated for the absence of new the Kaizer Chiefs man and the Brighton-bound star was shockingly bad, to say the least.

    Mosimane paired debutant Andile Jali, with Oupa Manyisa and Hlompho Kekana in midfield, while Sibusiso Vilakazi played up top in the ‘false nine’ role.

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    A number of pertinent questions can be asked about this starting line-up: Was it too defensive? What’s with the lack of pace and width? Why not deploy Jeremy Brockie in his preferred number nine role? Did Mosimane get his combinations right throughout the field? I think not.

    When I started watching the match, I exclaimed that it had a ‘pre-season feel to it’, little did I know that it would boil over to the Masandawana players, who should have been three-nil up in the first-half had Manyisa, Vilakazi and Thapelo Morena converted their chances.

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    What Billiat and Tau were excellent at doing, regardless of which players surrounded them at Chloorkop, was something known as ‘breaking the lines’. There are two ways to do it, namely passing (think Kekana’s ability to split a defence with one pass) and dribbling (think Temba Zwane’s, body feints and direct-approach)

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    So what’s my point? Billiat and Tau are excellent at both these aspects on any given day. Mosimane wanted Morena to benefit from Vilakazi hustling and bustling up front, but just how much hustling and bustling did he do? Could Brockie not have done that job? The decision to leave Vila on for the full 90 minutes was quite perplexing.

    Despite his fitness and pace, Morena is no Tau on the ball. Therefore I’d thought that the introduction of Anthony Laffor would have come earlier in the second-half, however, the Liberian was only given five minutes to make an impact ― something even his ‘supersub’ status could not achieve.

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    The other glaring absentee was Gaston Sirino who was missing through suspension. The Uruguayan winger is another example of a player at Sundowns who is able to break the lines on both fronts.

    Yes, Mosimane made second-half changes by bringing on Thokozani Sekotolong, Aubrey Ngoma and Laffor for Kekana, Zwane and Morena respectively, but either the substitutions weren’t the right ones or it was made too late.

    Either way, Mosimane has to shoulder some responsibility for the loss, as do his players who appeared to be going through the motions at times in the loss against AS Togo.

    Mosimane will have to tinker with his side in order to restore the well-oiled machine, that was Sundowns’ attack, this time, minus traditional spearheads Billiat and Tau.

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    They will need to do so as soon possible, or face the risk of elimination from the Caf Champions League. In less then two weeks, they face they same AS Togo outfit in Tshwane and need victory from their clash coupled with a draw from the Wydad vs Horoya clash.



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