Mngqithi says Sundowns making mistakes they won't get away with in Champions League

Tiisetso Malepa Sports reporter
Mamelodi Sundowns coach Manqoba Mngqithi.
Mamelodi Sundowns coach Manqoba Mngqithi.
Image: Veli Nhlapo

Rampant champions Mamelodi Sundowns are looking like a well-oiled machine and a finished product to those outside the team, but co-coach Manqoba Mngqithi said it is a different story for those inside the club as the technical team still has a few areas of concern.

Sundowns equalled their own record of seven league matches without conceding a goal as they beat Orlando Pirates 2-0 with second-half goals from Namibian striker Peter Shalulile in Soweto on Saturday.

They go into Tuesday’s MTN8 second leg semifinal against Golden Arrows in Atteridgeville not only with an advantage, having scored a crucial away goal in the 1-1 draw in the first leg in Clermont, but also with a swag after collecting 13 points out of a possible 15 in the Premiership.

Mngqithi said Sundowns may be viewed by many as clinical in front of goals and solid at the back, but the team is not yet at a level where they want it to be, especially with their Caf Champions League commitments looming.

“Because our challenge is more to try and refine our team for the Champions League, we know there they make less mistakes in that space from the quarterfinals going up, so as a team, inasmuch as everybody is excited that we are scoring goals and not conceding, we still see moments like [Saturday]” said Mngqithi, referring to the Pirates match where they allowed the Buccaneers to put them under sustained pressure.

“If [our goalkeeper] Denis Onyango was named man of the match I would have not been surprised.

“He pulled some very good saves and as the technical team we must be worried that how could Denis have to make such saves if defensively we are solid.

“And knowing very well that he also has got a responsibility to help us, but we must also dig deeper in understanding why did the opponents find a cross in our right channel which nearly resulted in a goal and Denis made a brilliant save.

“Why in front of us in the zone 14, when [Pirates striker] Tshegofatsho Mabasa held the ball very well for Kabelo Dlamini to be able to take a shot.

“Why that area was open for Kabelo to come freely in that space very late and be able to take that kind of a shot.

“We can’t sit on our laurels and say because we are getting clean sheets it is all well and good.

“We are also missing a lot of opportunities that could easily have taken us maybe to 15 points now.”

Mngqithi called for improvements from his team and said Sundowns is still making mistakes that they will not get away with against the big boys in the Champions League.

“So we can’t settle. Knowing also what happened very well even in the Champions League last season where Al Ahly got two opportunities away from home and they scored both goals.

“Those opportunities in SA, we would have said those were half chances.

“But when we make such mistakes in SA at times we don’t get punished but in the Champions League there is little room for these mistakes, more especially against North Africans.

“That is why we must always be vigilant and not be satisfied with the little bit of success that we have because there is still so much to worry about.”

Mngqithi bemoaned their conversion rate in front of goal, saying it is nowhere near the standards they have set for themselves as a club.

“I don’t think we are scoring enough goals considering the number of chances we create.

“I think we are still around 30 to 35% in terms of our conversion rate and that is not very good.

“And there are games where we don’t even have as many shots at goals, let alone shots on target.

“So those are areas where we must consistently fight to try to improve, and individual players also know they have got areas they have to improve in their game.”