JOHANNESBURG - Mamelodi Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane credited his side’s narrow 1-0 CAF Champions League win away against Saint George on Saturday to having a team with plenty of experience, arguing that they knew exactly how to handle the pressure.
The Brazilians, now through to the quarterfinals of the tournament and still in with a chance to retain their title, weathered a first-half storm and could have gone a goal down before the break, but goalkeeper Denis Onyango produced heroics to deny striker Saladin Sahid from the penalty spot.
They were much more composed in the second half, with Anthony Laffor lashing home the winner in the 86th minute after he was set-up by substitute Thapelo Morena.
“It’s experience,” said Mosimane after the match.
“We are fortunate to have players who are with the national teams and are always playing in these sort of situations on the continent.
“As a team we have a little bit of experience too because it is not the first time we are in the Champions League.”
At the end of the group fixture in Addis Ababa against a very stubborn Saint George outfit, Sundowns only had one foot in the next phase of the competition - until they heard that the result between the other two sides in their group, Esperance and AS Vita, went in their favour as the sides played to a 2-2 draw in Kinshasa, giving the defending champions passage to the quarterfinals with a game to spare.
The victory on the road was made all the more sweeter, with Mosimane admitting that Sundowns had to double their efforts in second match against Saint George, a team he feels his men took for granted in May when they played to a goalless draw at the Lucas Moripe Stadium in Atteridgeville in their opening group game.
“If you look at the statistics, I think we had about 80 percent of the ball possession,” he explained.
“The tempo was very slow. We were dominant, casual, enjoying ourselves, but we forgot to score. The players know that we undermined Saint George because they had never been in the group stages of the Champions League before.
“But it was a lesson for us. I also think we were trying to balance our schedule. We were playing back-to-back and still had two domestic games to play and were trying to win the league. So the team we used then is different to the team we used now. There were eight players missing through injury.”
Mosimane also complimented hosts Saint George for their hospitality and an incredible atmosphere at the Addis Ababa Stadium, which was packed to capacity.
“Did you see my players? They were tourists, just admiring,” the coach said.
“I wish we could have this at home and I promise you my players would be very different if they got these sort of crowds for their games.”