There was no season-opening Dutch delight for new coach Johan Neeskens as Mamelodi Sundowns were held 0-0 by AmaZulu today in the South African Premiership.
Neeskens, a crucial midfield cog in the Johan Cruyff-inspired Ajax Amsterdam and Netherlands 'total football' teams of the 1970s, has been hired by the rich Pretoria club to capture trophies through eye-pleasing football. But for the second weekend in a row, tall elegantly dressed Neeskens watched his team struggle against opponents who made their intentions clear from the kick-off with mass defence.
Sundowns did manage to score once last weekend and pip Bloemfontein Celtic in a pre-season cup tie, but AmaZulu held firm and had a few breakway chances to collect maximum points before a vibrant Lucas Moripe Stadium crowd. Neeskens felt his team deserved to win as they began the quest for a record sixth title.
The coach who turns 60 next month said his players must learn to shoot on sight if they are to avoid more frustrating afternoons against less talented rivals who retreat en masse at the slightest hint of danger. "When you get within 20 metres of goal the aim must be to shoot. If you do not shoot, you cannot score. We also need to quicken our game, our passing, our movement from one side of the pitch to the other," he said.
AmaZulu, a team from Indian Ocean city Durban who narrowly avoided relegation last season and then lost leading scorer Lehlohonolo Majoro to Kaizer Chiefs, came closest to breaking the opening-half deadlock when Namibian Tangeni Shipahu hit a post.
Goalmouth drama was equally scarce after the break and Sundowns strikers Katlego Mphela and Mabhuti Khenyeza will hope for more time and space when they visit promoted Jomo Cosmos Wednesday in the second round.
Johannesburg-based Wits University led twice before settling for a 2-2 draw against Maritzburg United at sparsely-populated Harry Gwala Stadium in KwaZulu Natal capital Pietermaritzburg. Former Tottenham Hotspur and South Africa defender Mbulelo 'OJ' Mabizela and Derrick Spencer nudged the 'Clever Boys' ahead in each half only for Diyo Sibisi and Wayne Matle to equalise.