Cape Town — Mamelodi Sundowns co-coach Manqoba Mngqithi was left to rue missed opportunities after his unbeaten charges managed a face-saving come-from-behind draw to share the spoils in the 1-all stalemate at the windswept Danie Craven Stadium in the Winelands on Saturday evening.
The eventual scoreline suggests the match was a hard-fought one but Mngqithi dismissed that notion, saying it should have ended as a contest by the time halftime dawned.
"We could have done better, honestly speaking," said Mngqithi. "One would say we could have taken all the three points, but unfortunately it was not to be."
“It was always going to be a very tough match. I think we created better chances first half and we did not take those chances.
"We were playing against the wind, but I think we created better moments to win the game. In terms of chances, I think the match result could have been secured already in the first half."
Traditionally, Gauteng teams always battled to play to their strengths when the wind was blowing in the Mother City, and Saturday it was fierce at the Danie Craven Stadium.
“The wind was too much and it made it very difficult to play patiently said Mngqithi. "The way you would want to play was not possible but I knew it was not going to be easy against Stellenbosch.
"They are a very difficult team to break down. In their build-up work, they look like they play with centre backs in Sibusiso Mthethwa and Alan Robertson or sometimes Mthethwa and Robyn Johannes.
“You also have Zitha Kwinika who starts more like a '6' when they attack but in defence, you already have one of the three centrebacks. That makes them have three centrebacks and two midfielders in front of Zitha Kwinika."
Just ahead of the halftime break referee Philangenkosi Khumalo blew up Sundowns defender Khuliso Mudau for a foul on Stellenbosch striker Ashley du Preez, who along with Junior Mendieta and Nigerian Stanley Dimgba were a constant threat. Their pace kept the Downs rearguard on their toes and often their runs down the middle of the field caused the midfield defence to lose its shape.
Mendieta converted from the spot, and the goal marked only the third score against Sundowns after 13 games this season.
When the second half play started Mudau did not run on, and it was assumed that he was withdrawn because his foul caused the team to trial by a goal. However, Mngqithi explained that the player was battling with an injury.
"Mudau was feeling a little bit of a hamstring," said Mngqithi. "We realised the intensity that came from Du Preez and Dimgba it would always be testing for him. It was always a factor and realised it's better for us to take him out because already he was not feeling good.
"The injury is not something that is serious at this stage. We have to be cautious at this stage of the season because we have so many back-to-back games.
"I think Thapelo [Morena] came in and gave a very good account of himself.
“[Thabiso] Kutumela had a big chance, Grant [Kekana] was unfortunately with that half-chance after the set-piece. We had a few good moments, but credit must be given to Stellenbosch. They really ran, they really worked hard today.
“They really wanted it more. I think my boys were, they were caught up in the mode of chasing the game second half. After scoring the equaliser, I think we could not gain control of the game again.
“Then, we allowed the game to be too transitional and too quick. When it is too quick it favours them because every time you make a mistake, you know you must be ready to defend against their speed against your defence, but the weather conditions also didn’t help."