Coach hails 'unbelievable' Sundowns as they join Pirates at top
Pitso Mosimane was referring to the mental strength of his players after they arrived in South Africa from Morocco only on Monday and made the long journey to northeastern town Thohoyandou.
JOHANNESBURG - Mamelodi Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane hailed his "unbelievable" team after they won 2-1 at Black Leopards Tuesday to join Orlando Pirates at the top of the South African Premiership with two rounds left.
Mosimane was referring to the mental strength of his players after they arrived in South Africa from Morocco only on Monday and made the long journey to northeastern town Thohoyandou.
"No other club in South Africa has a schedule like ours. We had a CAF Champions League semi-final in Morocco last Friday and four days later we are in a remote area of South Africa.
"While we are constantly travelling by road and air, our opponents are often well rested, fresher and capable of running us into the ground.
"That is why this victory over Leopards was so special. They were quicker than us, especially to the loose ball, but we managed the match superbly.
"I have so much respect for my players and am humbled to be in charge of such a wonderful bunch of dedicated professionals."
While two club fixtures a week is common worldwide, Africa presents unique challenges because many roads are in poor condition and flying is complicated by a shortage of direct routes.
Sundowns flew via Qatar to Morocco for the Champions League first leg against Wydad Casablanca, which they lost 2-1, and the return match is this Saturday near Pretoria.
A fifth league goal this season from Uruguayan Gaston Sirino and a first from Tebogo Langerman earned defending champions Sundowns victory over brave but limited Leopards.
Lesotho international Tumelo Khutlang scored two minutes into stoppage time for the hosts, who are third from bottom and battling to avoid relegation.
Sirino punished a weakly-headed back pass from Leopards Congolese captain Jean Djunga Munganga to prod the ball past goalkeeper King Ndlovu for a 28th-minute lead.
After coming close in the opening half, Langerman scored on 68 minutes, with a smart run off the ball giving him the space and time to net via a scorching shot.
Leopards' star striker Mwape Musonda retired injured just before the hour, taking much of the sting from the attack, and it took 92 minutes before Khutlang netted after a scramble.
Sundowns' victory sets the stage for a thrilling climax to the Premiership season as Pirates lead on goal difference -- plus 17 to plus 13. Bidvest Wits are third, five points behind.
Pirates visit Cape Town City and host Polokwane City while Sundowns will have home advantage over Golden Arrows before playing at Free State Stars.