Downs reach another milestone

Mamelodi Sundowns created a South African soccer record when they reached their fourth successive cup final on Sunday after beating AmaZulu 1-0 at Potchefstroom’s Olen Park in the semifinal of the Nedbank Cup.

But the club’s billionaire owner Patrice Motsepe said: “Sure I’m happy that we succeeded in reaching the Nedbank Cup final. I am happy we won, but there is still room for improvement.”

Downs were runners up in last season’s Absa Cup—the Nedbank Cup’s predecessor. This season they won the SAA Supa8 Cup, were runners up to Kaizer Chiefs in the Telkom Knockout and now face first division giant killers Mpumalanga Black Aces in the Premier Soccer League’s showpiece final on May 24.

The PSL and cup committee meet on Tuesday to decide on the venue for the final.

Aces caused a sensation at the weekend when they edged out PSL outfit Free State Stars 1-0 at Atteridgeville’s Super Stadium.

While Motsepe is following the club’s motto—“the sky is the limit”—his caretaker coach Trott Moloto is thrilled to be contesting another final.

But Moloto, a former Bafana Bafana coach, admitted he was worried about the prospect of facing the Aces.

“While preparing for AmaZulu, I watched and studied their previous matches and I was ready for whatever they threw at us. But Aces are different. One thing for sure is that I do not like surprises and unfortunately that is what I reckon Aces have in store for me.”

“I would rather be playing a PSL side because I would know what to expect. Aces are an unknown quantity and will cause me a few sleepless nights. A few surprises which I can do without.”

The problem for Moloto is that with a side containing many star players and a billionaire bank-rolling the club, expectations are high and failure against a side from a lower league in the final is not an option.

But on AmaZulu and the narrow victory, Moloto was to the point: “I knew that AmaZulu would be a tough side. They are a good football side. The difference between us and them was that we took our chance to score and they did not.

“They should have scored late in the first half and wrapped up the game with another chance near the start of the second half. But they missed both chances and we scored ours. It was that close.”

It was a spectacular second-half goal from Esrom Nyandoro that earned the Brazilians their place in next month’s final.

Usuthu’s technical manager Neil Tovey said he was not disappointed after the defeat. He explained: “We played Sundowns off the park. We were the better side. We simply could not score. But we suffered a setback in training before the match when our two leading goal scorers [Dumisani Ngwenya and Siyabonga Mkhwanazi] were injured and ruled out of the match. That was a huge setback.”

Moloto said that while he and his players were enjoying their cup success on Sunday night, he would be focusing his energies on two big matches this week.

At Orkney on Wednesday, Sundowns meet relegation troubled Jomo Cosmos in an Absa Premiership clash while on Sunday at the Super Stadium, Downs host Sudan champions Al-Hilal in the second leg of their African Champions League, third round clash. Kick-off is at 3pm.

Said Moloto: “I will rotate some players for the Cosmos game and give some of the players who played on Sunday a break against Cosmos. I want to be at full strength to play Al-Hilal. “

Downs were beaten 4-2 by Al-Hilal in Khartoum in the first leg.

But as the Brazilians’ spokesperson Matlhatse Mphalele said: “We are a big club, we have proved that by reaching four successive cup finals and we are still PSL champions. We want to make it big in Africa and we have a big task ahead on Sunday. We are optimistic, the two goals we scored in the away leg could be vital.” - Sapa

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