Sundowns, Wydad geared for round two

Sundowns, Wydad geared for round two
Aubrey Modiba of Sundowns tackled by Yahya Jabrane of Wydad during the CAF Champions League 2022/23 semifinal, first leg between Wydad Casablanca and Sundowns at Mohammed V Stadium in Casablanca, Morocco on 13 May 2023 © Nour Akanja/BackpagePix

by Graeme Jackson

Friday May 19, 2023. 15:00

Mamelodi Sundowns and Wydad Casablanca will be geared for the second leg of their CAF Champions League semifinal tie, set for the Loftus Versfeld Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

The teams played to a goalless stalemate in the first leg at Stade Mohamed V in Casablanca last Saturday night, though the result was very much an achievement for the South African side given that they played more than half of the match with 10 men and ended with nine – Neo Maema was show a straight red card late in the first half, and substitute Marcelo Allende earned another in injury time at the end of the game.

Both dismissals came at the behest of VAR, but they were the correct decisions.

Holding the reigning African champions in their own back yard with a numerical disadvantage is a fine outcome for the Brazilians, though it means that only the Red Castle can benefit from the away goals rule, and any score draw will send them through to the final.

Nonetheless, Sundowns coach Rulani Mokwena is confident that his side can emerge victorious on home soil: “We’re still focused on the second leg in Pretoria. We know that we will have the ammunition behind us, we will have a stadium that now knows how to play Champions League matches and push this team.

“The players are now gaining more experience in these difficult matches. We trust them to continue to be at service. They are an honest group of players. So a lot of credit to them, credit to the technical team, who put in a lot of hard work in preparing for what is a difficult week.

“It is the Champions League and it is against a good team and we still have to play another 90 minutes. I’m just very proud of the players’ incredible discipline, tactical inflexibility and adaptation to very difficult circumstances.”

Wydad will have been frustrated at their inability to take control of the tie in the first leg, especially in the context of having a numerical advantage, yet they only created a couple of clear chances with which to test goalkeeper Ronwen Williams.

“On the offensive side, we didn’t find enough space to create much danger. We came against a very well-organized team which plays with maturity and with very good technical qualities which allow them, even under pressure to get the ball out very easily,” said coach Sven Vandenbroeck.

The Belgian tactician added, “We hope for a better result. The game is still open for both teams but I am confident with my team that we can still qualify.”

Sudanese referee Mahmood Ismail will take charge of the match in Tshwane on Saturday afternoon.

The aggregate winners will face Al Ahly or Esperance de Tunis in the two-legged final next month, with the matches scheduled for June 4 and 11.

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