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How Pitso Mosimane beat Momen Soliman off the pitch
South Africa’s Masandawana handed Zamalek a heavy defeat in the first leg of the CAF Champions League final. Despite several players underperforming, most arguably Islam Gamal who was at fault for the first goal as well as scoring an own goal, the battle was won on the pitch as well as off it by Pitso Mosimane.
Mosimane set up the trap before the match and Momen Soliman fell into it without realizing it.
It was pretty obvious how inbalanced the team was on the day. Four attacking players, two holding midfielders and a back four consisting of two defenders and two other holding midfielders. Suicide, right?
Momen Soliman had little choice when selecting his starting 11 for the final, having just 14 outfield players to choose from. But he was not as limited with his words off the pitch.
Prior to the match, Soliman decided to initiate mind games with Mosimane, claiming that he would resign by phone as soon as Zamalek lost the final, something which did not fool Pitso as he had come out to say he hoped Soliman would not leave if that had happened.
So how did Mosimane get into Soliman’s head? Well for starters he helped him in selecting the starting 11 that he wanted.
“Shika is a legend, he’s a great player,” Mosimane said. We all know how much of a good servant to Zamalek Shikabala has been. Mosimane was smart to call him “Shika” for starters. How would he know that this is his nickname that Zamalek fans chant for him if he hadn’t done his homework? By saying that, Soliman had to pick Shikabala for the match and it was clear that him, Hefny, Stanley and Bassem Morsy were too much for Zamalek and it cost them dear.
Nonexistent, Shikabala had to cover for Moruf Yusuf almost all match at left-back, with just one effective chance from him in the first half. A cross that did not connect with a teammate. Zamalek lost a man with that front four playing and Momen did not react fast enough to save Zamalek’s blushes. It was clear that Moruf was going to have a long day at left-back but the Zamalek boss did not bring the much-needed Ramzy Khaled on for Shikabala till late.
Another important remark that Mosimane made was to praise Egypt international goalkeeper Ahmed El-Shennawy. Calling him one of the best goalkeepers in Africa, Pitso knew well that Egyptian media would pick up his quotes and it would get to the players. The club did not help out either when they posted a one minute long video of the former South Africa coach praising the club’s players after the team’s last training session before the match (video below).
Ahmed El-Shennawy was at fault for the second goal by Langerman for poor positioning and was later substituted for picking up an injury.
— KingFut.com (@King_Fut) October 15, 2016
If you watched enough lower league matches in Egypt, you would realise that the games do not depend on tactics for most part. Matches in the Egyptian League lower tiers are mostly about enthusiasm, willpower and fight. It was pretty obvious that Momen Soliman still can’t manage a top tier club. On his legs for 90 minutes, screaming his lungs out was never going to work. It got to the players, he was nervous & it affected his team’s performance.
For those of you that may not have known, Momen Soliman was surprisingly hired a few weeks ago by Zamalek, an announcement that shocked the Egyptian public. He’s currently having his first taste of Premier League football as manager.
Despite having one hand on the trophy, some would say all 9 fingers, Mosimane made sure he would not leave room for any blunders. It was evident that he got into Soliman’s head and he made sure he would stay there till Sundowns went home with the trophy.
One last game Mosimane thought and he played it well claiming that his team is able to beat any side in Africa but what came next proved what Mosimane was doing was not a coincidence.
“When Sundowns plays like this, it’s not easy for any team on the continent to beat Sundowns.
“Even when you park the bus and play on counter-attack, yes, somewhere somehow, you can catch us, but if you want to play open play with us, toe to toe, we are strong,” said Mosimane.
Guess who just laid out Zamalek’s gameplan for the return leg?