Dented ego or not, Mamelodi Sundowns haul out the heavy artillery for DRC upstarts
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Cape Town - Mamelodi Sundowns took a blow to their ego in last week's depressing two-all draw with DR Congo outfit AS Maniema Union FC but they came away with an advantage of two away goals ahead of Sunday's CAF Champions League second leg qualifier at Loftus Versfeld.
It was rare for Sundowns, who were harassed on several fronts in the match, to concede two goals in a match. The local DR Congo media made a meal of outcome with a hostile line of questioning at the post-match presser. Sundowns co-coach Rhulani Mokwena, somewhat miffed, retorted: "So why didn't they [Maniema] beat us."
Sundowns co-coach Manqoba Mngqithi played down the away-goal advantage at Friday's pre-match presser. He said it is not something that will be in the back of his players' minds when they run out on Sunday.
"The fact that we scored two goals away from home might mean nothing," said Mngqithi. "We have to find a way and see that we still dominate this time. We will fight to win the match and give a good account of ourselves.
"History in football does not really help much. You must always focus on what is in front of you on matchday and how best you can deliver. That is what we will be trying to do."
At Loftus, Sundowns will be back in their comfort zone and will not have to deal with hostile conditions which proved highly disruptive. Mngqithi reflected on some of the variables to which the players were subjected in the first leg.
“The temperature was high with humidity and that made it very difficult for the players to play at their normal intensity," said Mngqithi. "The artificial turf did not help us because many passes were cut (short) and we made a lot of mistakes. Our players thought they were playing on a normal pitch.
“The artificial turf was new and heavier.
"We knew what to expect and it turned out that way. We knew there were three areas where they could hurt us.
"It is their transition from defence to attack where they are very powerful and strong.
“The second one is the danger they pose in the wide channels. Their powerful fullbacks are always overlapping, very much as we expected.
"The third was set-pieces where we knew they are very dangerous. They are aggressive on set-pieces. They compete for every ball."
Sundowns rested a few key players in their midweek match against Golden Arrows, but the 'Brazilians' will bring out the heavy artillery for Sunday's match. For starters, Themba Zwane and Rivaldo Coetzee missed out on the midweek action will return to the run-on XI on Sunday.
“For this game, we will bring Themba and Rivaldo, both of whom are eligible for selection again," said Mngqithi. "They were rested for the match against Golden Arrows for a few reasons. However, they will help us, and they bring a lot of value."
“Having your players on their feet for that long can be more tiring than the actual game. I would not say they are in a better state because they came early to try and adapt and that may not be easy for a team that is coming from the kind of weather conditions they are coming from,” said Mngqithi.
Maniema did not have a midweek game and but that does necessarily translate to advantage, according to Mngqithi. Travelling to South Africa could prove tiring because players needed to be at the airport about three hours ahead of flying out for international matches.
“Having your players on their feet for that long (plus/minus 6 hours) can be more tiring than the actual game," said Mngqithi.
"I would not say they are in a better condition because they came early to try and adapt. It is not always easy for a team that is coming from the kind of weather conditions (hot, humid) they are from.”