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Pitso hails Hlompo's return after draw in Tunis

22 June 2017 - 13:54 By Mark Gleeson
Hlompho Kekana of Sundowns during the CAF Champions League match between Mamelodi Sundowns and Saint George S.C. at Lucas Moripe Stadium on May 13, 2017 in Pretoria, South Africa.
Hlompho Kekana of Sundowns during the CAF Champions League match between Mamelodi Sundowns and Saint George S.C. at Lucas Moripe Stadium on May 13, 2017 in Pretoria, South Africa.
Image: Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images

The return of skipper Hlompho Kekana to the Mamelodi Sundowns lineup proved a boost to the club as the reigning African champions gained a valuable away point against Esperance in Tunisia on Wednesday night‚ said coach Pitso Mosimane.

Kekana was one of three players back in the side after missing the previous Caf Champions League group stage meeting with the Tunisian club‚ which Sundowns lost 2-1 at home in Atteridgeville at the start of the month.

Kekana's influence in the middle‚ said the coach‚ was sorely missing from that game on June 2 and with him back to marshal the game‚ the team looked much better organised and were able to control much of the proceedings.

“Esperance played the way they always played. At home we just slept a little in the first minutes and then we gave them an opportunity to score an early goal and we gave them a penalty again near the end‚” Mosimane said after Wednesday night's game.

“Otherwise if there was no penalty or opportunity to score in the first three minutes we would not have lost to them. But the good thing was that we got three players back – we got Kekana back‚ (Yannick) Zakri and Anthony (Laffor).

“It really made a big difference. But unfortunately we lost Thabo (Nthethe) on the day of the match with a headache and whatever he had. He was not fit to play.”

It proved a bruising midfield battle with both defence tight and scoring chances at a minimum – except for one gilt-edge chance after a horror mistake by the Esperance defence that Sundowns managed to squander.

“I think we played tactically well‚ the game was well organised from both teams‚” Mosimane said.

“This is the kind of Champions League game where you see the two teams are disciplined and the organisation good. We hoped to have won but we had only one clear chance in the beginning with Percy (Tau)‚ but we didn’t take that chance.

“He might have missed the chance but he played very well. It was a game where you had to leave out your emotions and do what you have to do.

“Esperance were also afraid in the end. You could see they played for a draw in the end. We also didn’t want to open to be honest.

“But they realised we could do damage. They are smart‚ they are intelligent‚ they made the right decision and they go onto eight points. I think I would have done the same thing if I was playing against Sundowns because if you open up‚ we have speed behind to catch you.”

Sundowns remain three points behind Esperance in Group C and are level with St George of Ethiopia‚ who they visit next on Saturday‚ July 1.

“We have to be clear and see the bigger picture and progress slowly until the six (group) matches finish‚ and when they finish if we are number one it will be better‚ but even if we are second we will (still) move on‚” Mosimane said.

“There is a lot of pressure on both of us. We are going to Addis Ababa‚ which will be difficult but also Esperance is going to Kinshasa (to play AS Vita Club)‚ where it’s not easy. We’ll see how it goes‚ but the best thing for us after the match in Addis is still to be second in the group.”

- TimesLIVE

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