Mamelodi Sundowns flew to Egypt today for the most important trip in the club’s history. If they protect their 3-0 lead from the first leg of the CAF Champions League final, they will return as African champions for the first time after the second leg in Alexandria on Sunday. Njabulo Ngidi looks at their best and worst performances on the road this year.
Worst Performance on the Road
The first time the Brazilians crossed the border to start their Champions League campaign, a 19-match unbeaten run ended at the hands of Chicken Inn in Bulawayo. It was a rude reminder to Sundowns that getting a result away in the Champions League is tough business. The trick is to try to limit the damage as much as possible and then make up for it at home. They mastered that aspect well because they won all the eight matches they played at home on the continent this year.
Their worst performance on the road though came in the Democratic Republic of Congo against AS Vita and Ghana in Medeama. The defeat in Ghana was the most crushing because it came after they were eliminated in the Champions League and demoted to the CAF Confederation Cup play-offs.
The Brazilians left for Sekondi-Takoradi looking to protect a 3-1 advantage. They started with an ultra-defensive line-up.
Soumahoro Bangaly sat just in front of the back four, forcing Sundowns to do something that they aren’t used to - defend. That allowed Medeama space to attack them.
But the club had to deal with more than just a rampant attack. The Ghanaians played a number of tricks on Sundowns.
It ranged from denying them access to the match venue to train a day before the game, refusing them keys to their change-room and installing a Medeama official next to their bench during the game.
The Brazilians didn’t handle that well. They lost their cool. They ended up fighting two battles, off the field pressure and the game.
They ended up being too distracted for the game and lost 2-0. In Kinshasa the conditions were less volatile but they fluffed many chances.After handling wave after wave of Vita’s attack, they were finally broken at the death by Kule Mbombo.
AS Vita 1-0 Mamelodi Sundowns - Kinshasa, April 10
Medeama 2-0 Mamelodi Sundowns - Sekondi-Takoradi, May 18
Best Performance on the Road
The trip to Ghana taught Sundowns how to deal with everything thrown their way. In Setif they had it worse than Sekondi-Takoradi. The fans attacked them by throwing missiles onto the pitch to stop the match at 2-0.
That episode didn’t shake them, instead they focused on the job at hand and got the result.
It was a mature performance from the Brazilians who dominated their opponents on the field and took whatever the supporters threw at them. They were fearless, something that they lacked in Ghana. That fearless display characterised their journey to the final.
Their win in Setif might have not counted after it was annulled, CAF kicked out the Algerian side because of the fans’ violent behavior. But that match played a crucial role in toughening them up.
That’s how they were able to go to Cairo and return with a win over five-time African champions Zamalek in the group stage. They handled the lasers and the pressure from an Egyptian side that’s deadly at home. Sundowns took the game to Zamalek by pressing them. It startled the White Knights because they are used to visitors who sit back.
Sundowns will need to repeat that to be crowned African champions, especially without the suspended Wayne Sandilands which will see Bangaly slotted in a back four that has been consistent in personnel.
ES Setif 0-2 Mamelodi Sundowns - Setif, June 18
Zamalek 0-1 Mamelodi Sundowns - Cairo, July 17