Mamelodi Sundowns earned a vital three points in the CAF Champions League at Loftus Versfeld Stadium on Saturday. First half strike from Cassius Mailula was enough for The Brazilians to narrowly go past Al Hilal in Group B opener as the begin their continental journey. The Yellow Nation’s Head Coach Rulani Mokwena started off by giving applause to his opponents in a press briefing after the match and detailed out the performance from his side.
“Al Hilal have players that are well experienced, you could see [Ousmane] Diouf very experienced, Ahmed very experienced and [Mohamed] Yagoub the captain [who wears] number 10 they are very good players and very experienced. [Anas] Saeed [is] fast, aggressive and very experienced also. They have a very good team, Abdul Ajagun [is] good and has experience of playing in the PSL, he knows our players, Gerald Phiri also came on.” Said Coach Rulani.
“They also have a very good Coach in that space, but we were also good today. I thought we were very good apart from the challenge of the pitch, I thought we were very good in certain moments on the ball. Congratulations to the team, three important points in the group stage. This [win] means a lot to me because it means a lot to the team.”
“I celebrate with them and I feel what they feel. [It’s] important for the football club and [it’s] important three points to put us in that space for qualifying and getting us closer to qualifying. This means that we can compete, we know we can and we’ve just got to show consistency now, try to push and make sure that we can get better.”
At the end of the encounter Masandawana had fifteen attempts at goal with a 63% ball posession, while the Blues only had six attempts at goal and a 37% ball posession. Coach Rulani revealed that though the team had the opportunity to score more than one goal, he still remains proud of the group, he said:
“First it’s to get three points, the target is to move as close as possible to ten. History tells you that the lowest number of points to come out of the group stages is 4, but we want to try to get us as close as possible to 10 points because that guarantees you more or less a position in the knockouts and so three points regardless of the scoreline is very important [and] a clean sheet.”
“It could’ve been more, I think we scored a very good goal for the second one but unfortunately it was judged offside. In certain moments we were very good and we played the game, we were comfortable even though we had a few jitters in certain moments. A few misplaced passes but I thought the boys were very good today and applied themselves very well. We could’ve scored more, we could’ve created more chances, we didn’t give a lot today against a very dangerous side on counter attacks. We were resolute and we didn’t give a lot of chances.”
Downs nearly doubled their advantage through their inform youngster Mailula who scored an outstanding goal in the 47th minute, however an offside call was made. Coach Rulani remained content with the scoreline and noted the role that the Video Assistant Referee will play in the knockouts stages of the competition.
“We know that VAR will come into the quarterfinals and that will assist, but I am just very pleased with the performance today. Apart from looking at that goal, the performance today I thought was very good and we deserved three points today I think.”