Orlando Pirates tie honed Sundowns

Tiyani Mabunda of Mamelodi Sundowns is challenged by Augustine Mulenga of Orlando Pirates during the Absa Premiership match at the Orlando Stadium on Monday night. /Veli Nhlapo
Tiyani Mabunda of Mamelodi Sundowns is challenged by Augustine Mulenga of Orlando Pirates during the Absa Premiership match at the Orlando Stadium on Monday night. /Veli Nhlapo
Image: Veli Nhlapo

Mamelodi Sundowns workhorse Tiyani "Shuga" Mabunda reckons their goalless draw away to Orlando Pirates on Monday was a perfect litmus test for their CAF Champions League clash against Egyptian giants Al Ahly.

Sundowns host Al Ahly in the first leg of the Champions League quarterfinals at Lucas Moripe Stadium on Saturday (3pm). The return leg is scheduled for Cairo the following Saturday.

"The game was very important for us. I am grateful that we had to face Pirates before we face Al Ahly because it gives us a taste of what we are facing on Saturday," said Mabunda, who was man of the match against the Buccaneers.

Shuga views their showdown with Al Ahly, the most successful club in the Champions League with eight trophies, as a platform to measure their standard on the continent. He warned the North Africans against underestimating them.

"On Saturday, it's a game that is going to determine our level of playing. where we are on the continent.

"Al Ahly are not just any team you could face in the competition," noted Mabunda.

"But we are also no pushovers, we are Mamelodi Sundowns. Everybody on the continent knows it's tough to come to us and get a result. We want to fly the SA flag high.''

Against Pirates, Mabunda sat very deep as his role seemed to be mainly to protect the back four.

The lad from Limpopo explained why he had to drop deep.

"I have learnt to trust my coach's [Pitso Mosimane's] judgement, with what he decides.

"I had to be somehow immobile in the midfield because Pirates play with four attacking midfielders,'' Mabunda said.

"The whole week he [Mosimane] was emphasising that I should sacrifice myself. The way I enjoy playing was not the way I was supposed to play this time because this game was a totally different game.''

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