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Santos battle to avoid doldrums

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Santos battle to avoid doldrums

by Brian Gaffney
10 Oct 2007
Peoples Post
Peoples Post

Struggling Santos are at the crossroads following their elimination from the Telkom Knockout Cup series - a setback that has dented their image of being the knockout specialists of South African soccer.

Alarmingly, the exit of Santos from the cup competition has provided more questions than answers about the way forward.

What added to Santos' agony was the fact that their conquerors SuperSport United had five former Capetonians plotting their demise in a 2-1 defeat.

While SuperSport coach, Gavin Hunt, his veteran goalkeeper André Arendse and defenders Ricardo Katza and Rudi Isaacs savoured the moment, a dejected Santos coach, Jean-Marc Ithier, left the field in a huff after a listless performance by his side in the second half.

Ithier has a temporary reprieve to address problems, though. He has a fortnight to ponder the best way to lift flagging spirits among his charges as Santos' next match is an away clash against Wits University in the Premier Soccer League.

For a start Ithier should take it upon himself to call the shots to quash the perception that there are too many chiefs in the management team at Santos.

Inevitably, Ithier has to protect his coaching position and avoid becoming the fall guy if the situation does not improve. In recent years Santos have directed most of their energies towards staving off relegation than matching their league and cup successes from early in 2000.

Ironically, it was Santos's former custodian, Arendse, and goal ace Ithier who played key roles in the 2000-'01 BobSave Knockout, 2001-'02 League, 2002 BP Top Eight and 2003 Absa Knockout Cup triumphs.

Ithier must have yearned for Arendse's presence in his side after watching Wayne Roberts spill a weak shot at goal in the path of Katlego Mphela, who scored his second and and match-winning goal in the second half.

Santos's Koena Mathopa, back in action after injury, scored the equaliser against his former club before half-time. Mathopa's form suggested that his presence may help alleviate the goal drought.

Santos, without a win, have thus far struck the target five times, while drawing thrice and losing once in the PSL. They also succumbed 1-0 to Ajax Cape Town in the Absa Cup series.

A poor record indeed if one notes that Santos arguably have two of the most talented midfielders in the shape of Thembile Kanono and Thando Mngomeni. Kanono's anguish after shooting wide off goal on two occasions mirrored the frustration Ithier needs to eliminate.

He has been left with no alternative but to motivate all his charges as the window period for player transfers to boost the side will only take place in January.

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