Johannesburg – Striker Peter Shalulile has backed Mamelodi Sundowns to unlock Orlando Pirates’ tight defence in their MTN8 semi-final.
Sundowns walked away with a clean sweep of the MTN8 crown, league title and Nedbank Cup last term.
But the Brazilians, who have seven wins in all competitions, are yet to hit top gear this season. They’ve only scored 17 goals in 10 matches, with some of Sundowns’ winning goals coming late, including in the win over SuperSport United in the MTN8 quarter-finals.
That could be seen as a weakness going into their semi-final first leg against a Pirates side that has conceded only four goals in nine matches.
Shalulile, who scored 30 goals last season and leads the charts with six in the league this term, says late goals are proof that champions never give up.
“This is a good and competitive season. Teams want to win the title, survive or be in the top flight,” he said during his team's media briefing yesterday.
“Pirates this season have picked up levels. And they have great players, to be honest. So it’s been difficult to score against their backline (in the league).
“But the mark of champions is to knock on the door until they score. It won’t be an easy game but I believe we’ve managed to create chances all along.
“So come Saturday, we’ll have to bury the chances that we get because in every match Sundowns are guaranteed to create scoring chances up front.”
Goals and clean sheets are the order of the day in knockout competitions, especially in the MTN8 semi-final, which is a traditional two-legged contest.
And that’s why a team that wins on Saturday afternoon at Orlando Stadium will have an advantage heading to the return leg at the Peter Mokaba Stadium on October 24.
Sundowns are determined to leave nothing to chance.
“At Downs, we have a culture of wanting to win every game. I don’t think the first leg or second leg rule will make us question that,” Neo Maema added.
“We are not thinking that this will be a first leg game. Instead, we want to make sure that we win every game as the culture and identity of the club.”
Despite being the champions and favourites on paper, Sundowns’ job will be cut out for them against Pirates, who did some serious business in the transfer market.
Some of their newbies include the returning Kermit Erasmus, who’s expected to be unleashed against Sundowns where he played for two years.