Mamelodi Sundowns played a 2-2 draw against Al Ahly in a thrilling CAF Champions League group stages in Cairo on Saturday night. Masandawana took the lead in the first half and scored their second goal as the second half was coming to a close at the Al Salam Stadium, the South African Champions put the Red Devils under pressure after their first strike from Peter Shalulile and they went on to put on a gallant performance to find an equalizer through Thapelo Morena after Ahly’s two goals in the second half.
“Congratulations to both of the teams for putting on a very good performance, I think the crowd enjoyed it with four goals. Two very good sides on the pitch and congratulations to my players because it’s a very difficult game against a very good side and a team that made us work very, very hard for that point.” Said Bafana Ba Style’s Head Coach, Rulani Mokwena after the encounter.
“We wanted to get three points but it’s not easy against Al Ahly, you’ve got to give a lot of respect. Congratulations to the players [I am] very, very proud of their efforts. Two things which I think I have to say which are important, one is; it was difficult to have Thapelo Morena on the bench because he’s been very, very good for us and then he comes in with an important goal to make it 2-2. Incredible attitude, incredible human being and a top footballer.”
“The second thing is, congratulations to the technical staff, my staff worked very, very hard on this game. Incredible investment, we watched 7 or 8 matches of Al Ahly, even today in the morning we watched another two games. As I said, we wanted three but we got one, we had the better chances in my opinion, we take the one and we move.”‘
The Brazilians have played three games this far in the group stages, collecting seven points in total and registering their first draw in group B after being successful in their opening two games. Downs introduced their new signings and young players in their encounter against Ahly, Coach Rulani outlined the importance of giving his new troops a run in the highly contested African competition, he said:
“We wanted to win today [but] we didn’t win, it’s an important point against a very good team. I said earlier [that it’s] Ronwen Williams first Champions League, [Khuliso] Mudau the right back, last season he was competing with Thapelo Morena [in his] first Champions League. Mothobi Mvala’s first Champions League, he played a little bit last season but [he was] not starting and competing consistently at this level. Neo Maema, Teboho Mokoena and Cassius Mailula [it’s their] first Champions League.”
“Aubrey Modiba on the left back [was featuring a little bit] competing with Lyle Lakay who was the first [choice] starting last season, first Champions League. It would be unfair to judge them on the past, you would have to give them a fair chance to work, to play and to gain experience and to compete and the only way they can do that is to be on the pitch and play this type of games and feel this type of pressure and perform in these type of conditions, that’s the opportunity that we gave them.”
The Brazilians back-to-back victories over Al-Hilal and Coton Sport and a draw against Ahly in the CAF Champions League group stage puts them ahead of their competitors and in a good position to make it to the knockout stage. Masandawana have a proven record of dominating the group stages, last season they were at the top after winning five matches and recording one draw, Coach Rulani emphasized on approaching one game at a time.
“It’s group stages, I’ve maintained from day one that it’s four very good teams and one step at a time. It’s group stages first and now it’s to focus on hosting Al Ahly in Pretoria, making sure that we fight for the points because we have to fight for the points, no points will be given to us and then we will see how it goes from there. Step by step we grow, game by game and we look to get better.”
Bafana Ba Style will now return to South Africa to resume their defence of the Nedbank Cup in a battle against Marumo Gallants on Thursday at Toyota Stadium in Bloemfontein.