Mamelodi Sundowns brought the Absa Premiership trophy back to Pretoria on Wednesday evening and all it required was three points against Tshwane rivals University of Pretoria in the league last night.
A hat-trick from Anthony Laffor engraved Downs name on the trophy and in light of their success, here's why Masandawana became champions this season.
An 18-match unbeaten run that laid the foundation for dominance
Sundowns stuttered when leaving the starting blocks at the beginning of the season, recording two wins, two losses and a stalemate in their first five league games. It was during this time where coach Pitso Mosimane reiterated the importance of finding the right ‘combinations’ within his team. Soon thereafter, a fixed line-up began emerging. Downs looked solid in defence, efficient in midfield and deadly going forward. The Brazilians racked up win after win and found themselves unbeaten in 18 matches. Their mazy run to the summit of the Absa Premiership thus led to many believing that Downs could well have a special season on the cards.
The great wall of Chloorkop
There is a proverb in football that says, “offence wins games but defence wins championships”. This may come as a boring cliché to many football enthusiasts but this ultimately laid the ground work for Downs to win their seventh league title. With two games to go, Sundowns can boast the best defensive record in the league, having conceded the least amount of goals to date (20). Their water tight defence was marshalled by the telepathic partnership of Wayne Arendse and Thabo Nthethe in the heart of the Downs defence. Nthethe was always seen as one of the country’s best defenders but the rise to prominence of Arendse is admirable. The former Santos man could hardly get a sniff of game time in the shadows of Alje Schut last season but has now showed that he is more than capable of replacing the Dutchman.
The fearsome ‘CBD’
South African football witnessed their very own version of the world renowned front three of Barcelona stars Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar - called ‘MSN’. Yes, the Downs attacking triple threat of Leonardo Castro, Keagan Dolly and Khama Billiat wreaked havoc to defences all season long. Mosimane often mentioned that they tried to mould CBD by using the same principle of selflessness practiced by MSN, which has seen the world beaters put their teammate’s needs ahead of their own. As a result, the CBD scored 32 goals between each other and assisted a further 30 along the way thus far. While the Barcelona trio have played together for two seasons now, the Sundowns attackers found impeccable chemistry in their first season as a unit.
Players at the peak of their powers
A big part of what made Sundowns a force this season was that of certain first team regulars reaching the peak of their powers. Beginning with Dennis Onyango between the sticks, the Ugandan player of the year all but cemented his place in the team after a couple of seasons of uncertainty at Chloorkop. Now ahead of Kennedy Mweene and Wayne Sandilands in the shot-stopping department, Onyango’s ability to be the third eye to his defence has been a hallmark of the team’s success. Then there is the case of Hlompho Kekana and Bongani Zungu. Kekana managed to infiltrate his way into the national team because of his consistent displays this season while Zungu proved to be one of the country’s best midfielders this year. It’s no wonder then that Zungu secured a move to Europe after accomplishing all he could at such a young age. Even without an injured Zungu the Downs machine kept moving.
Sundowns took advantage of their weakened rivals
The usual suspects of Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates and Bidvest Wits are always thought of being title contenders at the beginning of the season. In all honesty though, Wits were the only team capable of pushing Downs until the end and even the Clever Boys showed signs of wear and tear towards the end of the season. As for the Glamour Boys, their performances dropped this season as a result of transition. It can be said that they are still adjusting to the ways of coach Steve Komphela after taking charge at the beginning of the campaign. Pirates on the other hand were dedicated to their course in wanting to do well in the Caf confederations Cup. Reaching the final of the tournament led the team to change their priorities, suffering in the league in the process. To some extent, this made work a tad bit easier for Sundowns as they never really looked like they were going to slow down.