Santos coach David Bright appears to have turned the corner and sorted out the suspect defence and attack of the People’s Team.
Santos were punished 4-0 in their MTN 8 quarterfinal showdown against Kaizer Chiefs at Loftus, and were then well beaten 2-0 away to BidVest Wits in their opening Absa Premiership fixture last month.
But Bright saw the problem, and a different and leaner Santos thumped Premiership rookies Bay United 3-0 last week to register their first win of the new season and score much-needed goals.
That win has filled the People’s Team with confidence ahead of their Premiership clash against unpredictable Moroka Swallows at the Athlone Stadium on Wednesday night. Kick-off is at 7.30pm.
Said Santos spokesperson Rodney Reiners: ”The coach [Bright] saw the mistakes we were making during the matches against Chiefs and Wits and appears have to have found a quick solution. The win over Bay United lifted morale and showed we can score goals. It was an important win as we had failed to score in the first two official games of the new season and conceded six goals.”
Reiners, a former Santos midfielder, added that Bright is hoping that the victory over Bay United has helped the players turn the corner after a disappointing start to the season.
Said Reiners: ”We have a decent squad of players who can more than compete and hold their own. The coach knows that and the players know that now. We will be looking at beating Swallows and continuing the momentum from Bay United. It is vitally important in this league that we take maximum points at home.”
But Reiners admitted Swallows were an unknown quality to Santos and coach Bright. ”We have not been able to get a good look at Swallows this season. They have a lot of new players and, frankly, we are not sure what to expect, but having said that we are not the least worried about Swallows. We are more worried about focusing on our own game and plan. There is no point in keeping worrying about what the opposition may or may not do. We will be concentrating on our own game and taking it from there.”
The Birds, under new coach Brazilian Julio Cesar Leal, have not been convincing so far.
They have brought their former head coach, Zeca Marques, on board as an assistant to Leal but they face a testing night in the Cape against a fired-up Santos.
The ever-improving Elazear Rodgers will again lead the Santos attack. Reiners rates Rodgers highly. ”Rodgers was man of the match against Bay United and it cannot be too long before he starts catching the eye of the Bafana Bafana technical team. I reckon he is a very good prospect, not just for Santos, but for Bafana.
The key that makes Santos tick in midfield is Erwin Isaacs, who will be up against Birds’ star midfielder Lefa Tsutsulupa, who has just signed a new contract with the Birds and will be keen to make an impression against Santos.
The Birds midfielder recently broke into the Bafana side and has a lot of skill and experience. But at home Santos should prove too strong for the Birds.
Wits will be hoping to make it two home wins out of two when they entertain Free State Stars at their Milpark stronghold, also on Wednesday. Kick-off is at 8pm.
But the Owen da Gama factor makes Stars a tricky proposition as Wits coach Roger de Sa knows.
Said De Sa this week: ”Any team that Owen has coached has been highly completive. Stars are no pushovers but we are looking solid after collecting four points from our two matches, but I have warned my players to prepare for a tough 90 minutes.” — Sapa