SportPesa Clubhouse column ambassador, Doctor Khumalo, gave his detailed insight into the second MTN8 semi-final between SuperSport United and Mamelodi Sundowns. This match was a fantastic advert for South African football and where we are going.
“This past weekend we saw the first leg of the MTN8 semi-finals where Polokwane City hosted Highlands Park, with SuperSport United playing hosts to Mamelodi Sundowns. While I enjoyed both games, I must admit the second game was my game of the weekend – without taking anything away from the first game. I’m selecting this game based on the fact that we need to appreciate good things when we see them.
“The approach from Coach Kaitano Tembo and Pitso Mosimane was marvellous to watch, especially if you’re a football person like myself. These two master tacticians continued to prove how much our coaches have improved in terms of cancelling each other tactically while playing to win. I would be failing myself and other coaches if I didn’t highlight what these two coaches did over the weekend. I know I would be failing those reading my column as well if I didn’t make any mention of what these two legends of the game served up over the weekend. It was a highly-tactical battle and we always enjoy watching those. There were primary tactical dynamics with both teams playing to suit the types of players they had on the field. The two teams used different systems, with SuperSport applying a 4-3-3, while Sundowns used a 4-2-3-1. We know very well that with Sundowns, they like to get their fullbacks overlapping and probably delivering crosses in their final third.
“When you look at Kaitano’s approach, it was like he was telling his opposite number, ‘Ok, I will allow your players to overlap and use the spaces behind both Anele Ngcongca and Tebogo Langerman whenever they venture up the field.’ That’s why he had Evans Rusike on the right, with Thamsanqa Gabuza on the left, while Bradley Grobler was central. From time to time, Gabuza and Grobler would change positions and it was all about ensuring that Sundowns fullbacks were not sure whether to overlap or stay in their block. By so doing, they’re making Sundowns uncomfortable and uncertain. Sundowns, on the other hand, are more about combinational play, with five of their players (Gaston Sirino, Themba Zwane, Sibusiso Vilakazi, Lebohang Maboe and either Ngcongca or Langerman) attacking the opposition. When you looked at how the two teams scored their goals, you’ll realise that it was from the way they set out to play. Chances were created and missed by both teams. Sundowns’ goal came from a cut-back from Langerman, while SuperSport opened with a goal from one of their three strikers, Gabuza, who benefitted from an Onismor Bhasera cross.
“It was an amazing game to watch, as if it was a tennis game, with end-to-end stuff. The tactical approach was unbelievable. Someone might be asking: what does tactical dynamics mean? Tactical shape of the team, the player movement and ball movement. If you were to look at SuperSport when in possession, you’d see their shape, how they moved the ball forward and how their players moved around. The same thing was happening with Sundowns as well. While SuperSport relied on transitional play, taking advantage of the spaces left by Sundowns fullbacks, Sundowns relied on combinational play and using their fullbacks.
“The player movement is sometimes horizontal, vertical or aerial space occupation. When we talk aerial space, we are talking about Gabuza’s goal which he took inside the six-meter box. His tactical dynamics in terms of player movement were spot-on. Like I said, this was a really interesting game to watch especially for those who want to grow in the critical analysis of this game. I must say it was a really good advert for South African football and, to add more spice, it was a Tshwane derby. I must say I was really impressed by the two coaches and their technical teams for the way they approached this game,” the Kaizer Chiefs legend added.