The Team of Choice more than matched their illustrious opponents and enjoyed better and more frequent goal scoring chances at the Moses Mabhida Stadium.
Masandawana barely tested the United defence, yet were clinical when their opportunities did arrive as Mauricio Affonso scored twice in 20 second half minutes to cancel out Judas Moseamedi’s 40th minute opener.
Then to rub salt in the Team of Choice’s wounds, Moseamedi had a 93rd minute equaliser controversially ruled out for off-side.
It was all very difficult to take for head coach Eric Tinkler, who had so badly wanted his men to be rewarded for their brave efforts in the final and throughout the tournament.
“I’m massively disappointed, I want to win trophies. I love being the coach, but I want to be a coach who is winning things,” coach Eric said.
“Fact of the matter is the ball is round, life moves on, and we’ve got another crucial game against Kaizer Chiefs (next Sunday).
“Our league position is also massively important for us. So I have to try and be a bit of a psychologist, to motivate myself and to motivate the players as well. We’ll have a couple of days off to reflect, to try get rid of all the steam, and then we move on.”
It proved to be a game of two halves as United had the better of the opening stanza before Sundowns came back strongly after the interval.
Even then though, it was the PMB team who had more goal scoring chances overall in the game, with the Brazilians failing to penetrate the United defence and instead having to rely on Affonso’s aerial prowess to win the match.
“First half we started extremely well,” the Maritzburg mentor said. “I thought we frustrated them, we knew that they were going to have a lot of possession, but we kept our shape, showed a lot of discipline.
“We pressed very well, and we caught them two, three times on the transition. We should have come in at least 2-0 up at half time and it probably would have been a different story,” he continued.
“I said at half time that in the second half we would have to work even harder, that they were going to come at us and that we would need to be extremely disciplined defensively.
“Unfortunately we made two errors and with the quality that Mamelodi Sundowns has, they will punish you. And that’s what ended up happening in the second half.
“Our second half performance wasn’t as good as our first which was a bit disappointing. But I can’t fault the players, they worked their socks off to get this far in the competition, to get into the final.
“They had to work extremely hard, they nearly took it. But disappointing for them and I feel for the club.
“I’m very proud of the boys, playing against a quality team like Mamelodi Sundowns and I thought for the first 45 minutes we dominated. I don’t think there was a shot at goal from them, we created a hell of a lot more chances, but you need to take the chances you create.
“As the first half progressed, they started to come more into the game and we started dropping off too deep, allowing the long balls to be played more inside our box. We spoke at half time about closing down those players a lot quicker.
“We needed to press them instead of looking to mark zonally. We needed to continue to force them to play backwards. Second half we didn’t keep the ball enough, we lost it too cheaply and then trying to soak up the pressure becomes very difficult.”
Next up for United is Sunday’s Absa Premiership clash with Kaizer Chiefs at the Harry Gwala Stadium.
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