Mokwena optimistic they'll beat Esperance

It’s only halftime, says Downs coach before second leg

Neville Khoza Journalist
Aubrey Modiba of Mamelodi Sundowns is closely watched by Roger Aholou of Esperance on Saturday.
Aubrey Modiba of Mamelodi Sundowns is closely watched by Roger Aholou of Esperance on Saturday.
Image: Mehrez Toujani/BackpagePix

With pressure on Mamelodi Sundowns to try and overturn the 1-0 deficit when they host Esperance in the CAF Champions League semifinal second leg at Loftus Versfeld Stadium on Friday (8pm), coach Rulani Mokwena is optimistic about their chances.

Yan Sasse's finish in the 41st minute was enough to hand Esperance a 1-0 win over Masandawana, who have now failed to score in their last three matches in the Champions League in the first leg at Stade Olympique Hammadi Agrebi in Tunisia on Saturday.

This means Sundowns will have to score twice without a reply to progress to the final or win 1-0 to force the match to penalties.

"I think with a lot of humility, it's halftime because the game is over two legs," Mokwena told the media during the post-match press conference on Saturday.

"Let me congratulate Esperance for the victory and also congratulate Sundowns because I'm extremely proud of the efforts of my players.

"I thought we were brave on the ball. I thought we defended very well and we suffered together in moments when we had to suffer against a very good team. When I watch the game of Esperance, I don't remember a team dominating them here at home like we did."

Mokwena is aware that his side will need to be clinical in front of goals in the second leg after they missed a few in Tunisia but drew some confidence that they were able to dominate Esperance in their backyard.

"I don't agree that Esperance tactically won. No, I fully disagree. I think in football, there are two important things during 90 minutes," Mokwena responded to a question by Tunisian media who questioned him for being outplayed tactically.

"The first is how many chances are you able to create and who created the most chances today between Sundowns and Esperance.

"Efficiency is not performance and tactics. You can talk about efficiency and maybe you are right because if you create one chance and you score, you are efficient.

"So, that is a completely different discussion that we can have. I would like to ask you guys [media], how many times do you see Esperance park the bus at home?

"Are you guys happy to see one of the biggest teams in this country playing against Sundowns parking the bus?

"If you guys are happy with that, then there is no problem with me. You can praise Esperance without degrading the performance of Sundowns because it's possible to do that."

Teboho Mokoena, who missed the first leg due to injury is likely to be back for the second leg after Mokwena said he was almost ready to play but didn't want to take chances.

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