Mamelodi Sundowns coach Manqoba Mngqithi says Andile Jali’s early substitution for Bongani Zungu in their MTN8 first leg semi-final against Orlando Pirates was purely tactical.
The captain who’s been one of the stalwarts and commanders of the Sundowns midfield since his return to the DStv Premiership is known for playing the game at his own pace and being the heartbeat for the team to control the game.
But Sundowns didn’t have their own way against a physical and relentless press of the exciting Pirates squad emerging under head coach Jose Riveiro.
The 2021/22 domestic treble champions were restricted to nine attempts on goal – none of which were on target.
And while Sundowns had some impressive passages of play, some of which came through the industry of Jali, he was not allowed to play his own game, as Man of the Match Ndabayithethwa Ndlondlo was perfectly stationed in midfield to bypass the former Pirates star with his quick turn of pace and impressive passing range.
Straight after Jali created a counter-attack that left even the opposition fans in awe, he was taken off for Zungu, which Mngqithi explained was an attempt to speed up their game in order to get something out of the first leg semi-final.
“No we wanted to turn the intensity a bit, to improve the speed of the game which is why… if you check our stats of the second, there was a big improvement in terms of our passing game and the number of vertical passes,” he said in the post-match press conference.
“But as you said he played very well, and he had very good moments in our build-up but it was solely because we wanted to improve the intensity of the team, which is why we brought in players like [Marcelo] Allende, and Gaston [Sirino].
“And we also wanted to bring Tapelo [Morena] into a striker position, but unfortunately [Khuliso] Madau got injured because we wanted to use a little bit of speed in our game, which I think was working for us in the second half.”
Sundowns will now face La Passe in their CAF Champions League home and away ties, a league game against Marumo Gallants before hosting the Soweto giants for the second leg tie on 22 October.