Beaten Sundowns definitely not out of CAF tie, says Mngqithi

Coach believes Pitso's Ahly will suffocate in Jozi's altitude

Sihle Ndebele Journalist
Mamelodi Sundowns coach Manqoba Mngqithi.
Mamelodi Sundowns coach Manqoba Mngqithi.
Image: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

“This was the first half, the second half is in Johannesburg.”

These were the reassuring words of Mamelodi Sundowns co-coach Manqoba Mngqithi after their 0-2 defeat to Al Ahly in the first leg of the CAF Champions League quarterfinals in Cairo at the weekend.

Despite dominating possession, the SA giants couldn’t score what would have been a vital away goal against the Red Devils. Goals from Taher Mohamed and Salah Mohsen early in the initial stanza and later in the second half handed Pitso Mosimane’s Al Ahly the massive win.

Mngqithi isn’t ready to throw in the towel yet, believing they have what it takes to overturn the deficit in the second leg at home on Saturday (3pm). The Brazilians mentor feels Al Ahly will struggle with altitude in Johannesburg.

“This was the first half; the second half is in Johannesburg. On the percentage of what is likely to happen at home, I will give Sundowns 60%. We’re a team that’s capable of scoring a lot of goals at home,’’ said Mngqithi.

“I think the altitude and the fact that we’ll be playing at home will give us a little bit of an advantage. The only setback is that we conceded two; if we conceded one, it was going to be much better. It was very unfortunate that we didn’t get a goal.’’

“TV”, as Mngqithi is known in football circles, also explained why they subbed Gaston Sirino in the 68th minute, highlighting the jersey No.10 was not as adventurous in attack when they subbed him. Kermit Erasmus replaced the Uruguayan ace.

“At the time we when we took him [Sirino] out he was kicked a lot and he was beginning to move away from a No.10 position, he was coming back into playing more like a deep-lying midfielder and that wasn’t helping us because we wanted to have more numbers in and around the Al Ahly box,’’ said Mngqithi.

The Brazilians soldiered on without instrumental attacker Themba “Mshishi” Zwane, who failed a late fitness test. Mngqithi gave a sense that Zwane’s unavailability compromised their game plan a bit.

“It was unfortunate that in the last stages we had to pull him [Zwane] out because he wasn't 100% fit and that had an effect on how we approached the game, but I still give credit to players who play today,’’ said the Downs trainer.

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