Manqoba Mngqithi says a ’not so full stadium’ helped Mamelodi Sundowns get a historic win
JOHANNESBURG - Coach Manqoba Mngqithi has lauded the silver lining of Covid-19 and Mamelodi Sundowns' preparations after his team claimed a historic 2-1 win over TP Mazembe in their third match of the Caf Champions League group stage on Saturday.
After winning back-to-back matches in their first two games of the group stage, defeating Al Hilal and CR Belouizdad at home and away, Sundowns were scheduled to meet their toughest opponents in TP Mazembe, who are five-time African champions.
But the Brazilians flexed their muscles, handing TP Mazembe their first defeat at an empty Stade TP Mazembe since October 2009 to end the Congolese team's 74-match unbeaten home record in continental football.
“First one, we should thank Covid-19 because with your supporters it's always different. When the stadium is full you always give a good account of yourselves,” said Mngqithi who understands the drive TP Mazembe's 12th man gives to their team.
"The fact that we played, maybe, at a not so full stadium (helped us a lot). But I must not take credit away from the team that played today. I think we came prepared for this encounter. We knew that we were playing against a very good team.”
With that victory, Sundowns stretched their unbeaten record to 22 matches this season.
They are at the summit of the Premiership and Champions League standings. They lead Group B in the Pan-African competition with a maximum nine points after three matches.
They are top of the log in the league with 36 points, one ahead of the second-placed Orlando Pirates who have played four games more. Mngqithi believes that being high in confidence has been Sundowns' springboard to such an impressive record.
“Our confidence is very high. I think we've played 23 (22) matches and we've not lost this season. It's a good account of the team and the way we prepare.
“The boys fought very hard. There were some circumstances in the game that were very hard for them,” Mngqithi said.
Sundowns will turn their focus to domestic football this week, before hosting TP Mazembe next Tuesday. On Wednesday, though, Sundowns will host GladAfrica Championship side Polokwane City in the Nedbank Cup quarter-finals.
“Sundowns will be looking to retain the Nedbank Cup after losing out on the MTN8. They'll know that's easier said than done, but if they continue to produce the goods like they did against TP Mazembe then they should be fine.
In the last 17 minutes on Saturday, defender and captain Ricardo Nascimento received his marching orders. As a result, The Ravens equalised courtesy of Tresor Mputu minutes later after Peter Shalulile had put the visitors ahead after a couple of minutes into the second half.
But a late Lyle Lakay set-piece on the stroke of stoppage time gave Sundowns the three points and a historic win. This was an outing that Mngqithi suggested was one of Sundowns' “typical performances” which has helped them establish their recent success.
"We always prepare for such eventualities. We know that in a game of football and more especially in the Champions League, you can get a red card out of nowhere.
“We then had to change our structure after conceding. We normally score those free-kicks," he said.