South American stars set SA Premiership on fire


Brazilian striker, Lucas Ribeiro Costa

JOHANNESBURG, (CAJ News) – FOR donning the fabled yellow and blue kit, the all-conquering Mamelodi Sundowns are aptly known as The Brazilians.

Coincidentally, their perfect start to the season has to a great extent been thanks to the form of Lucas Ribeiro Costa, its recruit from that powerhouse South American country – Brazil.

The incumbents are living up to their tag as title favourites and seem on course to smash a self-set record by winning a seventh league title on the trot in 2023/24.

This after a 100-percent start continued with a sixth win; returnees Polokwane City the latest victim of the swaggering pacesetters of coach Rhulani Mokwena.

Costa is enjoying a dream debut season in South Africa. The 24-year-old from the northeastern region of Santa Helena scored both goals as Polokwane were swatted in Limpopo on Wednesday.

He has found the net four times, including on debut, since signing from Belgian side, Beveren.

Costa is not the only South American making an impact at Downs.

Argentinian midfielder, Junior Mendieta

Argentinian midfielder, Junior Mendieta

Argentinian midfielder, Junior Mendieta, has made an instant impression. He was the hero in the champions’ previous league match, netting the only goal of the game away to Richards Bay.

The 30-year-old from the northern city of Corrientes joined in the off-season after starring for Stellenbosch in the Western Cape for a couple of seasons.

Chilean midfielder, Marcelo Alende, has nailed down a starting berth at the multitalented Brazilians and contributed two assists.

The 24-year-old born in the coastal Pudahel region of the capital Santiago is in his second season at Sundowns.

The multiple defending champions are on top with 18 points. They go to the international break with a healthy eight-point cushion.

Golden Arrows and Supersport United are second and third respectively. The midweek match between the two, when Arrows thrashed United 3-0 away, determines their positions.

Pirates are fourth, having played as many matches. They are on seven points. Their latest maximum set was collected at home to Cape Town City (2-0) on Tuesday.

After a difficult start, Soweto rivals Kaizer Chiefs are fifth with the same number of points after back-to-back wins over AmaZulu and Stellenbosch, 3-0 and 2-0 respectively.

Edson Castillo, the Venezuelan central midfielder, has hit the ground running in his debut season at Chiefs.

The nippy 29-year-old from Guayana City has registered two goals in five matches. He is a fan favourite and rarely puts a foot wrong.

At the wrong end of the table, Cape Town Spurs recently pledged their support to head coach Shaun Bartlett as his side emerged as punters’ favourites for relegation.

But with the trigger-happy nature of the beautiful game, he surely knows he is on borrowed time.

The Urban Warriors have lacked fight on their return to the DStv Premiership and on Wednesday, battled to a fifth successive defeat to remain rock bottom of the 16-team table.

Prior to the match against Moroka Swallows, the club released a statement refuting reports Bartlett’s job was on the line.

“Although our results have been disappointing, coach Shaun Bartlett has the full support of Cape Town Spurs F.C Board,” management stated.

Chilean midfielder, Marcelo Alende

Chilean midfielder, Marcelo Alende

It warned the sources of the speculation to “refrain from making unfounded statements in the media to gain cheap publicity for their own personal benefit.”

But with the team from the Mother City slumping to a 3-1 defeat against Swallows, time will tell how confident management is on the prospects of the former Ajax Cape Town turning around their fortunes with Bartlett at the helm.

Ajax have only managed two goals, certainly a depressing picture for a man who is one of the best strikers in South African history.

He is not the only coach skating on thin ice.

Poor performances at his two previous sides in the elite league- Supersport and Sekhukhune – have cost Kaitano Tembo his job.

Now at Richards Bay, the Zimbabwean mentor coaches a side that has struggled and sits 15th, with two points from five games.

Winless to date, they managed a one-all draw at home to Sekhukhune in midweek.

– CAJ News

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