Onyango warns Sundowns of poor pitch in Ethiopia at his old club‚ Saint George

30 June 2017 - 13:40 By Mahlatse Mphahlele
Mamelodi Sundowns's Ugandan goalkeeper Dennis Onyango.
Mamelodi Sundowns's Ugandan goalkeeper Dennis Onyango.
Image: Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images

Mamelodi Sundowns will have to adjust according to the unfavourable pitch conditions at the Addis Ababa Stadium in Ethiopia when they take on Saint George SC in their Caf Champions League group stage clash on Saturday.

This is the advice to the defending champions of their goalkeeper Dennis Onyango‚ who played one season for the Ethiopian giants before moving to South Africa to join SuperSport United almost 10 years ago.

“They are a team who like to play football when they are good going forward‚” Onyango‚ Caf’s local-based African Footballer of the year for 2016‚ said.

“And we must try as much as possible to minimise mistakes at the back because the pitch is not that good‚ which is going to be an advantage for them.

“We have been playing in the Champions League for a long time and we know that we must adjust as quickly as possible to conditions that we are not used to.

“They will also be playing on the same pitch and we won’t use that as an excuse if we don’t get the desired result‚” said Onyango from Addis Ababa‚ where the Brazilians were putting finishing touches to their preparations for the clash that will be played at extreme altitude conditions of 2350 metres above sea level.

“Altitude will also be a factor because you know Ethiopian runners have dominated long distance running for many years‚ as it helps them with endurance‚” he said.

“For us‚ we need to stay compact because there is no doubt that they are going to run for the entire 90 minutes without getting tired.”

Defending champions Sundowns go into this match sitting in second place on goal difference in Group C‚ where they are tied on five points with Saint George (Esperance of Tunisia lead on eight).

Onyango said the Brazilians need maximum points to keep their quarterfinal hopes alive.

“We want maximum points to stay away from having problems when we host AS Vita next weekend‚” the keeper said.

“We hope that this weekend Esperance fail to get the result in Congo against AS Vita so that we can go top of the log.

“I don’t think Saint George have been in the group stages of the Champions League before and they will be looking forward to winning against us‚ and cause an upset because if they beat us they will improve their chances of progressing to the next round.

“They have been the surprise package of our group and they have collected four points at home‚ which means you can’t underestimate them. They have tall players and they like play the ball on the ball on the ground.”

The top two teams progress to the quarters in a new Champions League format this year.

- TimesLIVE