Downs coach Mokwena calls on team to be decisive against Esperance

Players told to solve problems as they arise, not wait for halftime corrections

26 April 2024 - 09:00
By Mahlatse Mphahlele
Mamelodi Sundowns coach Rulani Mokwena and captain Ronwen Williams ahead of their CAF Champions League semifinal pre-match press conference at Loftus.
Image: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix Mamelodi Sundowns coach Rulani Mokwena and captain Ronwen Williams ahead of their CAF Champions League semifinal pre-match press conference at Loftus.

Mamelodi Sundowns coach Rulani Mokwena has issued a rallying call to his troops to take responsibility and trust their own decisions during the crunch Champions League semifinal against Esperance of Tunisia on Friday. 

The Brazilians are faced with the mammoth task of overturning a 1-0 deficit from the first leg in Tunis last weekend to book a place in their first final appearance since they won the tournament in 2016. 

Speaking at Loftus on Thursday, Mokwena asked his players to be decisive when dealing with situations on the field and not wait for corrections at half time or during consultations on the sidelines.

“It has been one of my criticisms lately in our debriefs where I told the players that sometimes they wait for me to help them solve problems,” he said, adding he communicates a lot with captain Ronwen Williams and midfielder Marcelo Allende during matches. 

“Ronwen is probably one of the most important in that regard because I communicate a lot with him when he is on the pitch. When he gets the opportunity to sprint towards me and inform me of what’s happening, some of the things I don’t even see.

“He and Marcelo Allende are probably the two that are an extension of the coach, and they have such incredible tactical insight in relation to how we want to play and the schemes we want to adopt in and out of possession.” 

Mokwena said he wants his players to take more responsibility. 

“I would like to see them take a little bit of responsibility to solve the problems when they face them and not to wait for halftime corrections for us to say you could have done this or that. Sometimes half time is too late.

Mokwena said he kept telling his players how important it was to play every minute of the game.

“The only time you will realise how important it was to be motivated from minute zero to 96 is after the game. You don’t want to find yourself in a position where you are grumpy, sad, disappointed and you feel like you have let yourself down. 

“That is the feeling you will get if you don’t correct the mistakes there and then on the pitch because at the end of the match it will be too late.” 

Williams agreed with the Mokwena and added they are aware of the importance of winning. 

“We draw inspiration from the African Football League (AFL) final where we lost away from home even though it was a bit different because we got the away goal. We will also draw inspiration from the Uefa Champions League between Real Madrid and Manchester City and Barcelona against PSG. 

“Just go out there and win the game, the other important thing for us on Friday is not to concede and I don’t think we let in a lot of goals at home. In the AFL we had five out of six clean sheets. 

“Knowing our team, we concede at Loftus and that’s the most important thing, it gives us energy knowing that we don’t concede at home and we have goals in front of our home fans.”