Sundowns are no weaker in the Champions League‚ says Mosimane

Ismail el Haddad of Wydad Casablanca and Themba Zwane of Mamelodi Sundowns during the Caf Champions League match between Mamelodi Sundowns and Wydad Athletic Club at Lucas Moripe Stadium on May 05, 2018 in Pretoria, South Africa.
Ismail el Haddad of Wydad Casablanca and Themba Zwane of Mamelodi Sundowns during the Caf Champions League match between Mamelodi Sundowns and Wydad Athletic Club at Lucas Moripe Stadium on May 05, 2018 in Pretoria, South Africa.
Image: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images

Mamelodi Sundowns are not noticeably weaker than in previous years in the Caf Champions League‚ they have just not been as clinical on the small margins that decide matches at this level‚ coach Pitso Mosimane has said.

Sundowns' 1-0 defeat against Wydad Casablanca in Morocco on Friday night‚ leaving the Brazilians needing a win at home against Guinean club Horoya in their final game on August 28 to reach the quarterfinals‚ was perhaps an illustration of Mosimane’s point.

Downs‚ the 2016 champions‚ mostly matched 2017 winners Wydad in front of a wall of chanting red in the 67 000-seater Stade Mohamed V. The superbly organised Moroccan giants’ winner came via a stunner from range by central midfielder Anas Al Asbahi in the 56th.

What cannot be ignored is that the result left Wydad – who eliminated Sundowns in the quarters last year – into the quarters on 11 points.

Downs are significantly lagging on five points‚ needing the win against Horoya (eight points) for a head-to-head rule progression.

Mosimane‚ though‚ in the continental game of small margins‚ does not believe his team have slipped significantly from 2016‚ when Downs were new as a force on the continent‚ and a surprise package who could boss opposition off the park.

“I don’t think we are weak‚” Downs’ coach said.

“I think tonight we played better than the last time we came here [in the 2017 quarterfinal‚ where Downs also lost 1-0 in Morocco‚ taking the tie to penalties].

“It’s just that – you know football; the guy takes one chance and he scores.

“My No.10‚ Jose Ali Menza‚ got a chance in front of the goalkeeper – he didn’t take it.

“When you play a game of two teams of high quality‚ it will always be like this.”

Downs have lost Keagan Dolly‚ Leonardo Castro‚ and this off-season Khama Billiat and Percy Tau‚ from their victorious 2016 team.

New players such as Meza‚ Gaston Sirono and Andile Jali are still‚ and constantly‚ being integrated.

The Brazilians also started the current group phase campaign notably jaded from winning the 2017-18 Absa Premiership‚ and gained in form as the stage progressed‚ after two draws and a defeat finally winning 2-1 at home against AS Togo-Port last month.

A home draw in the first game against Wydad was costly and put Downs on the back foot. They will need to make it two wins at home from three against Horoya to progress.

Mosimane identified some key mistakes in previous matches as cause for Downs having to leave it so late.

“We know why we are where we are now. Because we made two big mistakes‚” he said.

“One‚ the game at Horoya in Guinea [a 2-2 draw]‚ we conceded in the last four minutes. We were 2-1 up.

“The game in Togo [a 1-0 defeat against AS] was sickening. We should have scored five goals.

“Against Wac we made one mistake. My player thought the ball was out and everybody was standing‚ and they crossed the ball and scored with a header [to equalise at a final score of 1-1].

“But we scored in three minutes and we put Wac under pressure.”

If Downs beat Horoya‚ Mosimane will hope going into the quarters that his team have just been finding their stride in the group phase‚ as they aim for a run to the final and to regain their 2016 title.

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