Mamelodi Sundowns beat Free State Stars 1-0 on Saturday to retain the PSL title. Four key tactical decisions in the victory were as follows:
- Downs use two strikers
- Ea Lla Koto use false nine
- Rodgers plays into Pitso’s hands
- Sundowns give Stars the ball
Downs Use Two strikers
For much of last season, Sundowns used a 4-2-2-2 formation with players like Sibusiso Vilakazi or Khama Billiat playing in an advanced role next to Percy Tau, with two narrow attacking midfielders in support. This season, the side has used this shape with regularity, but the 4-2-3-1 shape has been seen of late. Whilst the two shapes are very similar, it was clearly a two striker setup for this one as Gaston Sirino stayed high up the pitch with Maboe. Downs’ best early chance came when Sirino got in behind Nyiko Mobbie and crossed for Maboe to nod wide.
Ea Lla Koto Use False Nine
The home side decided to use Harris Tchilimbou up front as a false nine. This gave them more mobility but very little box presence when their wingers or fullbacks got forward into crossing positions. The selection also meant that three defensive-minded central midfielders were chosen and they had little way to press high and stop Hlompho Kekana from getting the ball off his defence and dictating proceedings.
Rodgers Plays into Pitso’s Hands
At half-time, Stars introduced a target man in veteran Eleazar Rodgers. After the game, Pitso Mosimane told SuperSport that he was happy to see the frontman brought on. “When they put Eleazar on, I liked it because we knew what was going to happen. So, we had to overload the heart of our defence and deal with the balls coming in and Denis can catch anything that goes over them.”
This is exactly what happened as Denis Onyango caught numerous high balls in the box, from open play and from set-play situations like corners and long throws.
Sundowns Give Stars The ball
Whilst Sundowns have a clear style of play, they are also a very tactically savvy team who does what it takes to win. In the second half of this game, with a 1-0 lead, they let Free State Stars have a lot of the ball. The home side lacks inventive, creative passers and could not find a way to break Mosimane’s side down. They resorted to long-shots and constant crosses towards Rodgers, which were defended comfortably.
Which Sundowns players impressed you in this game? Were Pitso Mosimane’s side worthy champions and can they win a third title in a row next season? Let us know by commenting below.