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Mngqithi praises squad depth at Sundowns after 'weakend team' beats Pirates

Sundowns
(Image credit: Backpagepix)

Mamelodi Sundowns head coach Manqoba Mngqithi has lauded the depth in the squad at Chloorkop following the 1-0 victory over Orlando Pirates, saying that they haven’t been able to play their strongest teams in five games.

Brian Mandela Onyango's first-half goal inspired Masandawana to a 1-0 win over the Buccaneers on Saturday afternoon as the defending champions kicked off the new year in winning style.

Speaking to SuperSportTV after the game Mngqithi admitted that his side could have been more clinical, but after facing a number of issues in the squad he praised the depth at the club in what is a challenging time.

"I think it went the way we planned yet. I still think we were a bit in Christmas mode. I think we could have scored a lot of goals in this match," Mngqithi told SuperSport TV.

"We could have been more composed and clinical in our moments. Because we knew they have a very high line. There were times when their keeper was left alone with [Thulani] Hlatshwayo, but we never really exploited those moments.

"Once again we should complement the work done by everyone around the team. I believe the group is working very hard, the technical staff, support staff and players."

Masandawana stars Themba Zwane, Hlompho Kekana and Gaston Sirino were missing and Mngqithi is pleased to see his side cope without such influential players.

"When you want to win a championship, it's very important to have depth. We've had moments where already this year we lost maybe eight or nine players," he said. "The game against Arrows, for example.

"However, we still managed to come back with something and people thought we are saving players for the Champions League.

"It was not the case because players were just not available for many other reasons, but we went onto Botswana with a team that was again short of ten or 11 players," he added, "and once again the group worked very hard and we managed to come back with the result."

Mngqithi also revealed the lengths the club has gone to keep the squad safe during the Coronavirus pandemic while also praising club's management for ensuring that players and staff get tested for the coronavirus regularly.

"In essence, we've not really had our best eleven in the last five matches because of injuries, medical stuff and things like that...and also Covid," he continued. "We must also say that Covid is there and alive.

"Fortunately, our management is working very hard to make sure that we do the test as much as possible to make sure that we don't transfer it to other people, and I must commend the president of the club [Patrice Motsepe] for allowing us to test as many times as we can," he revealed. "If I can speak myself, I've tested three times.

"From the time we opened on the 28 because we want to make sure we keep it safe and that everyone is available, and those who are playing are not in a better position to infect others. That for me is a very big initiative."

Sundowns will now take on Botswana side Jwaneng Galaxy in the Caf Champions League first-round second-leg match in Tshwane on January 5, with Masandawana leading 2-0 on aggregate.