Mamelodi Sundowns’s strength in depth was on full display last night as they waltzed past Richards Bay into the round of sixteen.
A Peter Shalulile brace, and Lebusa’s well placed header from a pinpoint Mbule corner won the game for the Brazilians.
With numerous changes made in their starting line-up, Sundowns were expected to struggle a bit with the fluidity of their play, but that was not to be the case as they went about their business of passing their opponents off the park with their usual ease.
Without the likes of Tebogo Mokoena, Themba Zwane, Mailula, Modiba and Kekana in their starting line up, the spotlight fell on non-regular starters, and they didn’t disappoint.
They enjoyed 59% of the ball, managed 15 shots on goal, with eight on target.
Defensively, they were not troubled much either, despite conceding two goals, from only two shots on target. The Natal Rich Boys had four attempts in total.
It was always going to be interesting to see the likes of Kapinga and Zungu in the starting line up, but how did they do?
Kapinga and Mbule steal the show.
Lesedi Kapinga, who was reported to have asked for a transfer during deadline day of the recently closed transfer window, was in his element.
Playing in the number 10 role just behind Shalulile and Ralani, Kapinga was influential in creating numerous chances for Mamelodi Sundowns, able to find Shalulile’s runs behind the Richards Bay defense with perfectly weighted passes.
His assist for Shasha’s second goal was vintage Kapinga.
If there were any doubts about his influence when given an opportunity, they were put to rest yesterday.
Kapinga deserves to play more.
On the other hand, there is Sipho Mbule, who also put on a man of the match performance yesterday.
Mbule has been showing signs of improvement with each and every game he plays for Downs.
His influence yesterday was noticeable in all four phases of play. He is enjoying his football under coach Rulani Mokwena, and soon, he will be knocking on Hugo Broos’s door.
Ngobeni is slowly gaining the confidence that is needed to play the Sundowns way as a left full-back.
He is taking up good positions in the right moments around the final third with his well timed runs.
But his final delivery into the box lets him down, if he can improve on that, Modiba will have serious competition.
Downs didn’t have to worry a lot defensively; nonetheless, Lebusa showed his quality during offensive set-pieces, by put his side 2-1 ahead with a sublime header.
Lebusa is the kind of player you can always rely on because of his experience. He might not be playing regularly, but when he is called upon, he delivers.
In possession, Zungu showed glimpses of his class with his passing and vision.
Starting him in the crucial number six role was a bit risky from Rulani Mokwena, considering his lack of match fitness, he was caught out a number of times in defensive situations, and things could have been worse had Richards Bay kept the ball more and tried to launch more attacks through the middle.
Based on his performance last night, although he has improved tremendously in terms of physical fitness, he is not ready to start matches, especially as a number six.
With yesterday’s performance from his team, Rulani Mokwena sure does have a nice selection problem going forward.
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