Coach Manqoba Previews Highly Anticipated Champions League Encounter

Mamelodi Sundowns will be looking for victory over Congolese AS Maniema Union on Sunday to book their place in the group stages of the CAF Champions League.

Masandawana opened their CAF Champions League campaign with a 2-2 draw away in Kinshasa almost a week ago in the second preliminary round first leg against Maniema. The South African Champions head into the game on good form after a midweek win in the domestic league, Downs co-coach Manqoba Mngqithi reflected on the obstacles that affected their playing style against Maniema in Congo.

He said: “I wouldn’t really say it was a difficult game to be honest, I would maybe highlight some of the challenges that we had, [such as] the temperatures being very high and the humidity as well, which makes it very difficult for players to play at our normal intensity that they are used to. The Astro turf also did not help that much, we struggled with firm passes, many of our passes were cut more especially in the first half. We made a mistake of thinking we are playing on a normal pitch because the artificial turf was new which was good, but the fact that it was new made it a little bit heavier in terms of the ball not moving really fast.”

Coach Manqoba also said, “The opposition played how we expected. We had profiled them and we knew there were three areas that they can hurt you in. Firstly, It is their transition from defence to attack, they are powerful and very strong. Secondly, [it is] their wide channels, very powerful full backs [that are] always overlapping, wingers coming into half spaces and we expected that and it’s what came out of the match, Thirdly, [It’s] on set pieces, we know they are very dangerous, very aggressive, they compete for every ball and those are the areas that we expected from the match.”

Bafana Ba Style have been dominant in the domestic league with an excellent consecutive clean sheet and no goals conceded thus far, it was surprising to many that Maniema Penetrated Downs’ solid defense.

“In terms of the match itself, in the Premier Soccer League (PSL) at times you get away with a whole lot of mistakes, but in the Champions League it’s a little bit different. If you were to check the number of chances that they  created on the day,  they did not create that much chance, probably Denis [Onyango] was off duty for the better part of the game but one situation in mistake by Mosa [Lebusa], I can tell you in the PSL there’s a very big chance that they could not have conceded even from that mistake, we could have easily defended that situation.”

The Brazilians featured in a midweek encounter against Lamontville Golden Arrows in KwaZulu-Natal after their return trip from Africa. An impressive spectacle was observed as Masandawana were tested without midfielders Themba Zwane and Rivaldo Coetzee. Downs overcame Arrows in style with a goal in the second half and collected maximum points despite not having some of their trusted players.

“Themba Zwane and Rivaldo Coetzee are back, they are eligible for selection. We believe they can help us, we had reasons not to take them to Durban, more especially Rivaldo [because] he had three yellow cards, we were a little bit unsure in that space. [With] Zwane it’s always important to try and refresh him because he is very important to us, I think they will be a part of the team that will be [playing on Sunday].” explained coach Manqoba.

Mamelodi Sundowns host AS Maniema Union in the CAF Championships League Second Preliminary Round second leg on Sunday at Loftus Versfeld Stadium. Kick-off is 16h00, CAT.

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