Mamelodi Sundowns players thanks their fans after the 2019 TOTAL CAF Champions League match between against Wydad Athletic Club. Photo: EPA
Mamelodi Sundowns might have lost 2-1 to Wydad Casablanca on Friday in the first leg of the CAF Champions League semi-final, but the Brazilians go into the second leg optimistic of sneaking into the final. The Brazilians pretty much held their own against the Moroccan giants in an entertaining encounter that revealed much. Here are five things we learnt from the contest.

Wydad are untouchable in Morocco

The Brazilians finally scored in Morocco, having failed to do so in their three previous trips, but they once again finished on the losing side. The Moroccan giants stretched their winning streak at home against Sundowns to four matches. Wydad attacked Sundowns from the onset, using their speed and intelligence to unsettle the visitors. There were a few Sundowns fans in the stands but the sea of red drowned them. The atmosphere created in Rabat is a perfect example of why North African teams have dominated continental football, They intimidate their opponents before a ball is even kicked with their loud and colourful fans.

Onyango is Africa’s finest

Ugandan goalkeeper Denis Onyango was colossal for Sundowns. He snuffed a number of chances from Wydad who were looking to kill off the contest in the first leg so that when they travel for the return leg on Saturday, they'll just be in Pretoria to wrap things up. Onyango wasn’t having that. He was in the wars against the attackers of the 2017 Champions League winners. The only African based player in CAF’s Best XI continued to show why he is Africa’s finest. Onyango was the difference between Wydad running away with it and Downs keeping up with the Moroccans to set up a thrilling second leg - a place in the final up for grabs.

Wydad vs Sundowns’ rivalry is a classic

This match is slowly becoming one of the most entertaining and watched games in the continent. The rivalry between the two teams has grown immensely since they first met in 2017. Wydad won that contest, on penalties, following a 1-1 deadlock on aggregate. They went on to win the Champions League, which didn’t sit down well with Sundowns who felt it should have been them on the podium. Since then they have been trying to outdo each other, resulting in entertaining clashes on and off the field. Despite the rivalry, there’s mutual respect between these two heavyweights of football on the continent.

Sundowns are big boys in Africa

The Brazilians showed that they are part of the big boys in Africa. They held their own in a hostile environment against the 19-time Moroccan champions. Wydad showed some respect because they know how deadly Downs - who demolished Al-Ahly 5-0 to advance to the last four - can be. Pitso Mosimane has turned Sundowns into a heavyweight in continental football with their consistency in the Champions League.

Sundowns can make the final 

The away goal Sundowns scored in Rabat will put them in a good position going into the second leg at Lucas Moripe Stadium. The goal was the club’s first in Morocco having failed to find the back of the net in their last three visits. A 1-0 win in Atteridgeville would take Mosimane’s men to their third Champions League final in the club’s history. Sundowns have a good record at home, they score and unsettle their opponents by taking the fight to them. But they will need to bring a Herculean effort to get past Wydad.

Sunday Independent

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