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'This is how champions are made' - Mngqithi praises Downs' incredible team spirit

Mamelodi Sundowns coach Manqoba Mngqithi

Mamelodi Sundowns head coach Manqoba Mngqithi praised his side’s mentality after a come from behind victory over Stellenbosch on Saturday afternoon.

Masandawana fought back to beat Stellies 2-1 in a PSL match at Danie Craven Stadium with Peter Shalulile scoring with almost the last kick of the game to secure the three points for Sundowns.

Stanley Dimgba opened the scoring to hand Stellenbosch the lead in the first half, but Gaston Sirino levelled matters after the restart and Shalulile sealed Sundowns' win in stoppage time.

Speaking after the game to SuperSportTV the Downs coach said his side showed the mentality of champions, while he also praised the impact of the substitutes.

"I'm telling you games against Stellenbosch are never easy, structurally, the shape they adopted in the first-half made our lives very difficult, we had to dig very deep to get the result," Mngqithi told SuperSport TV.

"Thanks to all the coaches for the substitutions they made because Aubrey [Modiba]'s cross was the cutting edge and I also believe [Mauricio] Affonso came and gave a good account of himself.

"With Peter in the box you always hope for something when balls fall to that area but credit must be given to them they really gave us a good run for our money and at times in patches they had a very good passing game.

"With [Nathan] Sinkala, [Ibraheem] Jabaar and [Junior] Mendieta caused a lot of problems for us with their strikers playing in the wide channels but I was still very happy with the work ethic, the belief from the players and also structurally we improved and matched their structure because we realised that we're having a problem and that's when they started to break down."

Mngqithi made it clear that he disagrees with some of the referee's decisions especially in the first-half and he felt that they should have been awarded two penalties.

"I was not very happy first-half, I'm never somebody who's going to be talking about refereeing but I think Gaston's chance was a clear penalty, Lyle [Lakay]'s ball in the box for me was a handball and a handball inside the box is a penalty," he added.

"But I don't want to make a meal out of that because I also make mistakes in my line-up, the tactics, we make mistakes but I just felt there were moments, Thapelo [Morena]'s foul in the half-way line for me that was a straight red [card] but unfortunately in football, you must take these things because referees are human beings and at times they make mistakes.

"And genuine mistakes just like we also make mistakes but those shouts, for me the Gaston one was the easiest for the referee to make the call but it's water under the bridge now, we can focus on the next match."

The former Lamontville Golden Arrows head coach believes his charges gave a good account of themselves and he provided an update on the injured Kermit Erasmus.

"I think this is how champions are made, I think this is what you want to see in a team that want to be champions or to retain their title. I think they gave a very good account of themselves but honestly speaking the teamwork in the group is very good," he said.

"From the coaches I work with, the performance analysts, the medical department and the conditioning team, the whole technical team and the support staff, the players, the relationships, the cohesion is looking good and is encouraging for us.

"I do not even wish to know [Kermit Erasmus' injury update] because at this stage we don't want to lose anyone and he's very important for us. The minutes he gains for us, he always gives us something. I just hope and pray that it's not something very serious."

Erasmus was introduced in the 58th minute, but the experienced striker was substituted 10 minutes later after picking up an injury.

Sundowns will now take on DR Congolese champions Tout Puissant Mazembe in the Caf Champions League game in Tshwane on March 16