Sundowns grit out tough draw in Abidjan

12 February 2019 - 20:25 By Marc Strydom
Emiliano Tade of Mamelodi Sundowns celebrates goal with teammates during the 2019 TOTAL CAF Champions League match between Mamelodi Sundowns and Asec Mimosas at the Loftus Versveld Stadium, Pretoria on the 01 February 2019.
Emiliano Tade of Mamelodi Sundowns celebrates goal with teammates during the 2019 TOTAL CAF Champions League match between Mamelodi Sundowns and Asec Mimosas at the Loftus Versveld Stadium, Pretoria on the 01 February 2019.
Image: ©Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

Mamelodi Sundowns had to battle big, physical and determined opponents in Asec Abidjan, and tough conditions too, for a 0-0 Caf Champions League draw in the Ivory Coast capital on Tuesday.

In heat reportedly at 31 degrees Centigrade on the poor surface of Stade Félix Houphouët-Boigny - the same pitch where Jerry Sikhosana scored that goal to win the 1995 Champions Cup for Orlando Pirates - Downs absorbed attacks, looked for a winner on the counterattack, and ultimately gritted out a stalemate.

Downs went to seven points from four games, and seemed destined to cede the lead of Group A to Wydad Casablanca, the odds-on favourites to beat Nigeria's Lobi Stars in Tuesday night's late game in Morocco.

Sundowns' success in Africa has been built on the ability of the most attractive footballing team in the PSL being able to adapt to a war of attrition, when needed, away in the Champions League.

Downs had less than 40 percent of the possession on the poor, overly-grassed, bumpy pitch, but they managed probably the best chance of a first half where they were very hard to come by.

In the 24th Themba Zwane's pass across the outside of the Asec box teed up Thapelo Morena - playing as a right wing, with Anele Ngcongca at right-back - who drove not close, but not far, from goalkeeper Abdoul Cisse's right upright.

Asec were reduced to half-chances by Downs' excellent soaking.

Huge Burkina Faso right-back Patrick Malo headed well wide from a corner. Midfielder Ahmed Diomande struck wildly on the uneven surface from outside the area, which would struggle to even qualify as a half-opportunity.

Mosimane brought on his new Argentine striker Emiliano Tade for fellow South American, Gaston Sirino of Uruguay, from the break. Asec coach Amani Cesar introduced Abdoul Tapsoba for Gaoussou Samake on their wing.

Just before the hour Sundowns opened up a good chance. Lebohang Maboe ran to the edge of the area and laid off to Tade to his left, whose diagonal pass found Themba Zwane on the right, who made space and shot a foot past the upright.

Big centre-forward Ahmed Toure headed Malo's cross straight to Onyango.

But chances were rare in this boa constrictor of a game.

Ultimately Sundowns, who could have snuck it had the ball fallen their way, had to be content with a draw.

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