Do Mamelodi Sundowns have a plan B?

Manqoba Mngqithi, Mamelodi Sundowns, October 2020
Mamelodi Sundowns
The Brazilians looked far from their best on Wednesday and allowed rookies TTM to grow with confidence as the match progressed

Mamelodi Sundowns’ rivals would have taken note at the Brazilians’ inability to break down the Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila (TTM) defence on Wednesday night.

Sundowns, the defending Premier Soccer League (PSL) champions, could only muster a 0-0 draw with rookies TTM at Loftus Versfeld Stadium.

Masandawana did have a few decent chances in the opening stanza and hit the bar through captain Hlompho Kekana.

But as the second half progressed they seemed to increasingly run out of ideas and players such as Kekana became frustrated as he resorted to long-range hopeful shooting.

Its indeed a problem which many of the ‘bigger’ clubs around the world have to deal with – when facing teams that are happy to sit deep and get numbers behind the ball. It's why a club like Manchester United, for example, have in the last few years been able to get good results against some of their main rivals but have struggled to penetrate teams who show little ambition in terms of their own attack.

That point was also illustrated in Sundowns’ opening league fixture – when they played a Kaizer Chiefs side with ambitions of their own to win the game, which left gaps for Downs to exploit and as a result, they won 3-0.

But up against a TTM side who are new to the league and who were thrilled with a goal-less stalemate in Pretoria, Sundowns’ inability to capitalise on their possession dominance and inability to find creative ways of opening up the opposition were exposed.

It was indeed a frustrating night for Sundowns fans who watched on television as their side huffed and puffed and failed to find much spark or inspiration.

It's an issue the technical team will need to address because on Wednesday night we didn't see much of a ‘Plan B’ or any substitutions which changed the game or mixed up Downs’ approach.

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If they don’t do that, the Pretoria side risks the possibility of becoming predictable and one may find more and more teams happy to come and play for the draw against them while also looking for a killer blow on the counter-attack.

To be fair to coaches Manqoba Mngqithi, Rhulani Mokwena and Steve Komphela, Sundowns were missing a few key forwards to injury, including talisman Gaston Sirino, Kermit Erasmus and Sibusiso Vilakazi.

But with the wealth of talent they have, that excuse only goes so far and it's perhaps a tweak in the formation or game-plan which needs to be looked at – even if that means getting someone like Mauricio Affonso on the field and going the direct route. New signing Mothobi Mvala, an unused sub against TTM, is also strong in the air. Sometimes silky skills in midfield can only take a team so far.