“The Players Gave a Very Good Account of Themselves” – Coach Rulani Mokwena.

Mamelodi Sundowns began their CAF Champions League race with a 2-2 draw against AS Maniema Union at Stade des Martyrs in Congo on Sunday afternoon. A brace from Themba Zwane was enough to ensure that the visitors bagged two away goals in their first leg of the second preliminary round fixture.

Masandawana Co-Coach Rulani Mokwena admitted that the recent international break poked holes in the team’s performance and they could have performed better. He said, “It’s always difficult after the FIFA break to be able to come back, particularly because there isn’t a lot of training time, you [are] missing a couple of players with regards to preparations, there’s also players coming back from different playing concepts and spaces. [However], we showed resilience and a good fight in a very difficult away match with very difficult conditions, and against a very good team that was motivated and fought for 90 minutes.”

Bafana Ba Style Playmaker Themba Zwane handed the Champions a head start in the game with a goal from the penalty spot in the early minutes of the encounter, however Maniema cancelled out the lead with a goal before the half time to level matters between the two teams. According to Coach Rulani the first half of their encounter under the extreme heat in Kinshasa was not a pleasant sight for a team that enjoys possession and counter attack football.

“For us the first half wasn’t very good, we made a lot of unforced errors, we struggled a little bit with the boxes today. Only in the first half we managed the two build ups that they got, we created chances immediately from those two scenarios, including the penalty when they started from the back. They then went long and played off the second ball, which forced us a little bit to drag our line a little bit deeper and our turnovers were far too much.”

“Unfortunately even with the situation where Mosa [Lebusa] made a pass, it started further up when we just couldn’t keep the ball with Pavol [Safranko] and Peter [Shalulile], and that was our story in the first half, too many turnovers, we couldn’t retain our compactness in possession and we struggled a little bit on transition.”

The Brazilians performance improved as the game progressed and they came out firing in the second half as they looked to put the game away by creating multiple decent opportunities and putting the opponents under pressure.

“It was better in the second half, even the numbers speak a very good language. We did a little bit better with the boxes, we [also] minimized turnovers which helped us to be in control of the game and deservedly we created a very good chance, a good goal scoring opportunity with [Sibusiso Vilakazi] Vila who came in and did exceptionally well, but let down by a lapse in concentration with a couple of minutes to go.” said Rulani.

Masandawana’s coach also reflected on the impact of the weather conditions at Stade des Martyr and the playing conditions that they had to adapt to heading into the clash: “It’s about 38/39 degrees Celsius, it’s extremely hot and you’ve [also] got the element of humidity. It’s extremely humid and that of course gives a little bit of a challenge in relation to the respiratory, the recovery of the players, the breathing, it becomes physiology a little bit of a challenge, particularly with regards to the physiological adaptation of the body. The pitch being synthetic, an artificial pitch also doesn’t help [but] these are not excuses, these are things that we had to cope with and I think the players coped with them well, ours was to adapt and we tried our best to adapt in a very difficult match against a very difficult team, against very difficult conditions. [I think] the players gave a very good account of themselves, they played with dignity and respect, the performance was good, just the psychological engagement could’ve been better in regards to minimising the mistakes which I thought in the second half we did a lot better.”

Bafana Bafana international Thabiso Kutumela made his debut in continental football action with The Brazilians and shared his excitement about playing his first game in the highly anticipated African tournament. Kutumela said, “It was great to experience the CAF Champions League for the first time. I am looking forward to trying to win our second leg so that we can continue with the Championship so that I can fully experience the competition. I’ve always wondered how it felt to play this tournament after seeing Sundowns and other clubs playing in the CAF. I am happy that I am now part of Sundowns and I get to experience this and I am looking forward to helping the team win their second star.”

7 Responses
  1. muzi kunene

    The really truth you underestimate the opponent and you even departed from here to DRC later you don’t even want to acclimatize that’s what beat you there but at least you learned your lessons.
    If my memory serves me well you’re in Mamelodi on the eve of that game gjving the poor the food and it was a good gesture but the timing wasn’t good ahead of the crucial game.
    Lastly pls consider Motupa to help Shalulile if Sofranko fails and I don’t think he’s still injured don’t force Sofranko down on our throat let the poor guy understand the way Africans play since he’s the first time playing on this Continent, Kby forever.

  2. Mzimela

    Fifa break wasn’t problem .problem was line up same line were against Kaizer Chiefs that allowed Chiefs equalized from 2 nill why keep changing special back 4 these Onyango .Modau are weaskest Link .pass few seasons Mkhulise play why been side line this season why fix if not broken

  3. Mfana

    Not a high pressure game, nothin g wrong in giving fringe players game time that’s what is needed just disappointedly that Sifiso Ngobeni was not on the reserve list.We can complain about the absence of Grant Kekana &Maboe but that doesn’t hold water.We never missed those players at all & remember that team is still coming to South Africa and we will brush it aside.Sundowns was just too casual at the back & to be honest the first goal was a free gift from us, otherwise the opponents know themselves they won’t make it on our homesoil.As for Safranko the coaches r too desperate or just easing their conscience to prove that they made the right decision by signing the boy,but he’s not Sundowns material at all. I mean the boy is not even motivated by scoring a goal but he’s too rigid.But all in the overall performance was not too bad,we did not even a crisis.Its just we kind of undermined the opponent especially the back passes that led the first goal.We r great club and that team is no match to us.

  4. Jebzi

    Commenting on the game we conceded poor goal. I believe Alonso was much better than this Guys only injuries let him down. Deadly in the air skillful and good on one twos in the box l remember the Last game he played against Ahly Ahly

  5. Sbedula

    Hi masandawana it was a good game and players try their best but at the back onyango and mudau was our weak link other than that they try their best.

  6. Skhumba

    But the person that gave away the first goal is Lebusa! He is good player I know that but this guy at times he makes school boy mistakes! His injuries has been a blessing to the team! The best combination in our central defence btn Rushine Grant! I do not know whether our coaches see that! Lebusa works hard but gives away silly goals like the one in this last gave! He was the weakest link in that defense not Mudau and Onyango! Brian Onyango played well in that gave despite his jittery start!

  7. Calvin

    Last season in a 2-1 loss against Chiefs, he nearly gave away a goal against Amazulu in our 1st league game his name is Mosa Lebusa.

    He must up his game.

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