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MTN8 2021

Overloads & Half Spaces – Rulani’s Fascinating City Breakdown

Rulani Mokwena arrived for his pre-MTN8 final media duties prepared – some cheat notes with data on the opponent to brief journalists.

You’d swear the Mamelodi Sundowns co-coach had been watching Cape Town City for a whole year as he detailed what his side should expect.

City, recently involved in high scoring affairs, pose a threat to Downs’ almost unbreakable defensive line, Mokwena admitted.

“You are 100 percent correct. They’ve scored 13 goals and conceded 10, but if you look very closely at City, and responding to your question, it’s going to be a very difficult game for the entire team,” the coach explained.

“City have a (Taariq) Fielies that is very comfortable to drive into the midfield, like you saw against Pirates initially with him, (Abbubaker) Mobara and (Idumba) Fasika. And you have these possibilities of Fielies forcing overloads, very similar to how Chelsea do it with (Toni) Rudiger to create these overloads in the midfield. Then Mobara can bring the ball out and find the pass into the half space with the diagonal ball into (Surprise) Ralani, who is inverted into the opposite half space – or to find the ball behind the defensive line with Fagrie Lakay.”

Mokwena has often come under criticism for being overanalysing, but if he didn’t breakdown Eric Tinkler’s team in this fashion does that not suggest he is not sufficiently prepared?   

“If they have pressure on their defensive line, they then find(Thato) Mokeke to either come a little bit into the space between the centre halves so he can receive it and then play the diagonal ball to the right with Thami Mkhize or Craig Martin,” the Downs mentor went on.  

Sundowns have only been breached twice in the domestic league, the two goals coming in the quarterfinals of this cup against Kaizer Chiefs back in August.

It’s hard to break them down.

But City put four past Golden Arrows at the weekend before going to sleep and almost allowing them back to draw the game, though they did hold on to win 4-3.

To qualify for the MTN8 final, City beat Swallows 3-0. They can score.

“The work we have, is the work in dealing with their build up. We’ve got a lot of work to do in dealing with that and if we can invest a lot of energy in relation to that we should be okay. But this is a different game with a different component. We should look at our own schemes to try and deal with the detail you get from an inverting Mkhize, an aggressive overlapping (Terrence) Mashego and then in certain moments figuring out how to interpret the offensive line when they play with Fagrie or Martin – is it a back three or a back four? What about when they play (Abdul) Ajagun as a false nine, creating the space between our centre halves?” said Mokwena during the press conference.  

“It’s a bit more complex, but they’ve got their weakness too. We’ve got a lot of very good players that will be on the pitch and will look to help us dominate and influence the game our way. We want dominance, not a contest.”

Do you remember any of these ex-Downs playes? 


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