Goal examines how Mamelodi Sundowns won the 2013-14 ABSA Premier Soccer League, so soon after being laughed at whilst falling toward the bottom of the table just a season agoAfter a dismal 2012-13 season, where they ended outside of the top eight, in a lowly tenth spot, coach Pitso Mosimane was determined to transform the club's fortune on the field this season.
Sundowns were in danger of dropping into the relegation zone a year ago, and Mosimane began by improving the quality of players with effective signings like Khama Billiat, Cuthbert Malajila, Katlego Mashego, Bongani Zungu, Mzikayise Mashaba, Rashid Sumailia and Thabo Nthethe, soon after his appointment in December 2012.
He immediately brought back Ramahlwe Mphahlele who had been loaned out to Tuks by his predecessor Johan Neeskens, and the player proved key to winning the title this season.
Second-placed Kaizer Chiefs led the table for the duration of the campaign and while at it, they went on a nine-match unbeaten run, thus earning the nickname 'The Moving Train'.
However Sundowns were not afraid of the AmaKhosi and went further, recording an eleven-match unbeaten run, and still running.
Winning his first league title as coach after near-misses with Supersport United in 2002 and 2003, Mosimane says the Brazilians deserve all the credit for sticking to their guns when everybody was writing them off throughout the season.
It is a step in the right direction in what Mosimane himself hopes will form an imperious side.
"(It was) the media, who said that we have too many players and a squad full (of old) age and we need to be taken note of from now on," said Mosimane after proving the critics wrong.
"But mostly, this triumph is just a step in the right direction to building a formidable side. Remember, when I took over, this team was at the bottom, with egos. This triumph is an indication to all that we are coming off relegation, staring them in the face, and I said to you that I will need two years to build this team into a solid unit.
"This (league title) is an indication that we are heading nicely towards that pedestal," Mosimane added.
Acquiring The Right Players
Downs brought in 16 players at the start of the season. Some have come in and set the scene alight with thrilling performances like Billiat, Malajila, Mashego, Zungu, Mashaba, Nthethe and Dove Wome, while others like Sumailia, Rodney Ramagalela, Tiyani Mabunda, Sibusiso Khumalo and Bryce Moon have played bit-part roles.
However, the ability to identify the players Mosimane felt would make a difference to his team was key. So in saying that the acquisitions of those players, especially guys like Billiat, Malajila, Mashego and Zungu who led the team's front-line in the opening stages of the season was spot-on buys.
So too was that of Mashaba, who is adept at defending and attacking. Nthethe, who joined from Bloemfontein Celtic in January and keeper Kennedy Mweene were also central to the step up.
The ability to bring in the right type of quality player has always been something Mosimane has been good at even at his days at SuperSport. Therefore, it's actually no surprise to see his signings at the Brazilians, delivering for him this season.
Utilising Home-Ground Advantage
An unbeaten home-record of 98 percent in all 15 matches, with 11 of those culminating in wins, while the other four ended in two draws and two defeats respectively, is another key factor that led the Brazilians to the title.
They turned the Loftus Versfeld Stadium into a fortress of their own and only the country's big two, in Chiefs and Orlando Pirates can claim to have come away unscathed from Loftus.
Championship-winning outfits are moulded between an 80 to 100 percent home-record. Look at the English Premiership champions Manchester City and runners up Liverpool's dominant home-records this season.
Home-ground advantage is something the Brazilians have also used to their advantage this season and it has paid dividends for them.
Downs boast a deadly attacking stall that contains the likes of Mashego, Malajila, Billiat, Zungu, Teko Modise, Lebohang 'Cheese' Mokoena, Elias Pelembe and Anthony Laffor.
These guys have been the thorn in many a PSL team's stride this season, topping the league's scoring charts with an overwhelming 51 goals.
Many had it that they would struggle when Mashego, Malajila, Billiat and Zungu were ruled out of action in January. But how wrong were they as the likes of Laffor, Mokoena and Pelembe stepped up? The latter has now won his third league medal after his previous two with Supersport in 2008 and 2009, while Modise came to the fore in riveting fashion.
This is an area where their title rivals, Chiefs fell short this season, after the injury to Knowledge Musona. Sundowns financial strength, results in a strength in depth which is the cornerstone to a Championship-winning side in modern football.