History stacked against Sundowns ahead of Al Ahly showdown in Atteridgeville

History stacked against Sundowns ahead of Al Ahly showdown in Atteridgeville
Manqoba Mnqgithi, coach of Mamelodi Sundowns with Mosa Lebusa of Mamelodi Sundowns during the 2021 CAF Champions League Mamelodi Sundowns Press Conference and Training at Chloorkop in Midrand on the 20 May 2021 ©Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

by Bertin Basson

Friday May 21, 2021. 12:00

History is stacked against Mamelodi Sundowns heading into Saturday’s 2020-21 CAF Champions League second-leg quarterfinal fixture against defending champions Al Ahly.

Kick-off at Lucas Moripe Stadium is set for 15h00 CAT (SA, GMT+2).

The Red Devils will take a 2-0 aggregate lead into the match. Sundowns put in an impressive display at Al Salam Stadium in Cairo last weekend but were ultimately undone by goals from Taher Mohamed and Salah Mohsen, the second of which came following a costly error by Denis Onyango late in the first-leg.

Nevertheless, Sundowns co-coach Manqoba Mngqithi is confident that the 2016 CAF CL champions can make history in Atteridgeville. No South African club has managed to overturn a loss when trailing by two goals from the first-leg in the 28-year history of the country’s participation in Africa’s premier club competition.

“We have a bigger responsibility to make sure that at the end of the day, we achieve the outcome that we want. I am very confident and optimistic that if we apply ourselves very well and stay focused, improve on the kind of mistakes that we made. When we don’t make those kinds of mistakes we win matches,” said Mngqithi.

“I am still very excited with the way I saw the team performing in Cairo because I don’t think we have ever performed like that away from home and [we were] unfortunate to concede the types of goals that we conceded. In my opinion, you can’t have better ball possession in Cairo if you are not playing well.

“In terms of the performance, we strongly believe that without improving a lot in that performance but minimizing the types of mistakes that we made, we will always stand a better chance to get the result that we want. We are confident in the group that we have, if there is anyone that has the capacity to come back in this match it’s Sundowns,” he added.

Although delighted with his team’s performance in Cairo, Mosimane is mindful of the threat posed by Sundowns and wasn’t ready to get carried away by the record nine-time champions’ advantage heading into the reverse fixture.

“If anyone asked me before the first-leg, would you take a 1-0 or 2-0 victory against Sundowns, I would’ve said yes, so I am happy with the result we got. Winning the first-leg is very important, but it does not secure our qualification, as nothing is guaranteed in football,” said Mosimane.

“I spoke with the players and congratulated them after the game in Cairo. It is important to praise the good results, but I also told them that this is half-time and we are leading 2-0 and it just gives us a slight advantage.

“Facing Sundowns has always been difficult, and we have to respect that,” the former Sundowns coach elaborated ahead of his homecoming.

Al Ahly held Sundowns to a 1-1 draw in Atteridgeville following a 2-0 win in the first-leg just last season, but will still carry scars from the 5-0 loss they suffered at the same venue two years ago.

The aggregate winner will face either CR Belouizdad or Esperance de Tunis for a place in this year’s final.

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