Two late goals on Sunday earned the Team of Choice a 3-1 win over the Brazilians and a place in the 2018 Nedbank Cup final.
Wednesday’s Absa Premiership encounter now promises to be an intriguing battle between two of the league’s most dedicated tacticians, both of whom would have intensely studied each other’s team ahead of the Nedbank Cup game, and now have even more to think about after Sunday’s match.
“You have to give Pitso Mosimane credit, how they prepared tactically, how they scored the first goal and also closed the spaces we wanted to play in to,” said coach Fadlu of the weekend’s match. “Their analyst has been at our last five games, live at the stadium. And you have to give them credit - they really closed up us in the first half.”
The Team of Choice mentor was of course very pleased with his players’ efforts, especially the mental toughness and focus they showed, and he’ll be looking for more of that on Wednesday.
“I’m proud of the players - conceding in the second minute, against the champions, against the former African champions it’s easy to drop your head. When Sundowns had the bulk of possession, its easy to think you’re not good enough.
“But how they kept their thinking, about the next action, thinking about what they should do, the positions they should take up with or without the ball. That was the key, for the players to control their thinking, whether we scored or conceded a goal.
“Since the first day of pre-season, I told them they have to believe how good they are. I still think they don’t take that confidence fully on board, it will still take some time, but hopefully as they will realise it, we will grow as a team.
“We can’t celebrate now, we’ve got a game on Wednesday and on Saturday,” coach Fadlu continued. “We celebrated in the dressing room, we go sleep, and we had a recovery session on Monday to prepare for Sundowns again.
“Sundowns are a big team, their log position doesn’t lie, they are a fantastic team. We have to realise we got the man advantage (after Gaston Sirino’s red card), that is maybe why we got the goal.
“We want to go full throttle, although maybe we should rest some players because we play a few days after that against Kaizer Chiefs. So we’ll look at the injuries and yellow cards and decide.”
Coach Fadlu then underlined just how important home support can be, adding: “The fans continue to push us along. You could see how the stadium erupted when we scored, and that is what we want here, for every home game to have this kind of crowd. I hope they can come to the stadium again on Wednesday to give us that 12th man atmosphere.
“We have been creating a good situation for the fans. Like I said two months ago, we want to fill this stadium by the end of the season. I challenge them to bring their aunties, bring their uncles and their families to fill up the stadium for the remaining home games we have.”
Both teams have a player suspended - Rushine de Reuck for United, and Sirino for 'Downs.
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