Sundowns coach reveals what is keeping him awake at night: 'we are not shrewd enough'
Mamelodi Sundowns’ technical team believe their killer instinct‚ especially in front of goal‚ will come with confidence and they will not be putting pressure on their array of forward stars to finish better‚ co-coach Manqoba Mngqithi has said.
Mngqithi admitted after his team’s 2-0 Caf Champions League Group B opening victory against Al-Hilal of Sudan at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday night that the one deficiency of an otherwise efficient performance was that Downs could have killed the game earlier.
Mosa Lebusa headed Sundowns ahead in the 10th minute and the Brazilians then could not convert dominance and chances into goals until substitute Kermit Erasmus added a second in the 90th.
Mngqithi was pleased at Downs’ tactical superiority to a dangerous and underrated Hilal‚ especially in playing effective pressing football to limit set-pieces in the home team’s half‚ but admitted his side made life harder for themselves not taking more of their chances.
“I think organisationally‚ what we were hoping for we managed to achieve‚ because we did not want them to be more in our half‚ because aerially they are very strong and every time they got a set piece you could see it was difficult for us‚” Mngqithi said.
“But I think after scoring the first goal we took our foot off the pedal a bit. And they started coming at us with a lot of free-kicks‚ corner-kicks and throw-ins around our final third. And that nearly caused us problems.
“But we regrouped in the second half and demanded a high press‚ and stronger counter-pressing mentality‚ which was always going to be important against these guys.
“ … Overall I think the game panned out the way we thought it would. But still one complains about the fact that we are not shrewd enough.
"We are creating some nice scoring opportunities but we never really take them.”
Hilal‚ semifinalists in the inaugural Champions Cup in 1966‚ have a proud record in Caf’s premier club competition.
Their four subsequent semifinal appearances came post-2007‚ the last in 2015.
Last campaign they missed the quarterfinals by a point from eventual winners Al Ahly.
Sundowns’ opening win‚ along with TP Mazembe being held to a 0-0 draw in Democratic Republic of Congo to Algeria’s CR Belouizdad‚ places the Pretoria team in the early lead of Group B‚ and opens the way for progression to the quarterfinals.
“We are complaining about the team not being shrewd enough‚ and the people who you would expect to score these chances are the ones who unfortunately did not take them‚” Mngqithi said.
“And we have been complaining about this. If you look at even the game against Chippa here‚ we scored two but could easily have scored eight to 10.
"Stellenbosch became a humdinger at the end‚ but again we could have easily scored four more.
“ … But we would not want to put anxiety on the players‚ because the more you demand‚ the more you put them under tremendous pressure and they end up not giving you what you want.
“But we are happy‚ because not many people respect Al-Hilal. And we are the people who have been in the group stages with these teams – we know that they are capable of and they can beat you at any given stage‚ especially from set-pieces.”
DStv Premiership leaders Sundowns meet Baroka FC next at Loftus on Wednesday evening.