Vital away goal keeps Sundowns Champions League dream alive
Mamelodi Sundowns returned from Rabat, Morocco, yesterday with a spring in their step knowing they have it in their hands to qualify for the second Caf Champions League final in four years. This after the Brazilians scored a vital away goal in their 2-1 defeat to the 2017 champions Wydad Casablanca in the first leg of the competition's semifinal on Friday.
Defender Anele Ngcongca's 42nd-minute goal which came in between Salah Said's 26th-minute opener and Badi Aouk's clincher in the 47th minute, could prove crucial in enabling Pitso Mosimane's side to meet either TP Mazembe or 2018 champions Esperance in the final on May 24 and May 31.
The Brazilians suffered their fourth defeat (in a row) away to Wydad since their tussles began in 2017.
But Sundowns' record of two wins and one draw at home against the north African team will be enough to boost their confidence.
"While I'm not entirely happy with the result because we lost 2-1, I'm happy with the performance from the team because it's always a difficult place for us here in Morocco, but we improve," reacted Mosimane in his team's twitter account yesterday.
A 1-0 win at the Lucas Moripe Stadium on Saturday will be enough for Sundowns to qualify for the final. They beat Egyptian giants Zamalek 3-1 in 2016.
Mosimane's team again showed their maturity at the Prince Moullay Abdellah Stadium, where a sea of red of Wydad fans would have intimidated anyone with limited experience in African club competitions.
Sundowns were not completely outplayed though, with 21 shots on goal versus their seven, Wydad were obviously miles ahead in terms of domination and deserved their victory.
"It was the first time I see Wydad so stressed at the back, it's also because we scored the important away goal," said Mosimane.
The Moroccans will come to Pretoria with the 2-1 defeat they suffered in January against Sundowns in the group stages still fresh in their minds. In that match, Themba Zwane scored a brace and will be the man to watch again, having scored a total of six goals in this year's competition.
What could be a concern, though, for Mosimane going to Saturday's decider is the fact that they have to play a critical league match against relegation-threatened Black Leopards in Thohoyandou on Tuesday, barely 24 hours after landing at OR Tambo.
A loss or a draw against Leopards could hand the league title to Pirates who are left with two matches to finish their campaign.