Johannesburg - Mamelodi Sundowns’ co-coach Manqoba Mngqithi says the technical team will shoulder the blame after the team crashed out of the Caf Champions League on Saturday night.
Out at a packed FNB Stadium, Sundowns’ run in the continental showpiece came to an abrupt end after they drew 1-1 with Petro de Luanda in the second leg of the quarter-final to lose the tie 3-2 on aggregate.
The Brazilians came into this encounter on the back of a shock 2-1 defeat to Petro in Angola, as they needed to overturn the deficit at home in the return leg with a win.
But it wasn’t to be. The Brazilians took the lead from Brian Onyango early in the second half before the Angolans equalised from Tiago Azulao’s penalty to secure their passage to the semi-final.
“I am very proud of the boys,” a dejected Mngqithi said. “It’s unfortunate that we didn’t go through to the semi-final but I think the boys really gave a good account of themselves.
“Probably, it’s us the leadership that will have to take the bullet and say ‘maybe we need to do better and plan better in the next coming matches and make sure that we improve in this space because we are not achieving our ultimate goal’.”
In Johannesburg, Sundowns made four changes to the team that lost in Angola, while Rushine De Reuck and Lebogang Maboe replaced Mosa Lebusa and Teboho Mokoena respectively.
However, Sundowns who dominated most of the possession were not sharp shooters on the day, while the numerous consultations with the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) killed the momentum of the game.
Referee Bamlek Tessema Wayesa initially consulted with VAR on the stroke of halftime, where he awarded Downs a penalty, which Themba Zwane missed.
The Ethiopian referee ruled out Petro’s equaliser from open play after VAR convinced him that goalkeeper Denis Onyango was fouled leading to the goal.
VAR also came into play for Petro’s equalising goal as Wayesa was convinced that Andile Jali caused a foul inside the Sundowns’ box.
“The momentum of the game was killed by a lot of things. One, the VAR decisions took too long although I wouldn’t say they were right or wrong,” Mngqithi said.
“I just feel having too many stoppages of four to five minutes in the issues of Denis and the handball, that had an impact on the game. I think it is a decision that can be taken very quickly.
“The second one on the penalty, I think again it is something that took too long. As to whether these decisions were right or wrong, I wouldn’t want to go there.
“The second half became very ugly, I must be honest. It was a very ugly game of football because time was also running against us. They were sitting in and didn't want to come out.”
Sundowns will be eager to bounce back to winning ways when they turn their focus to domestic matters when they host Cape Town City in the league on Wednesday night in Hatfield.
The Brazilians are still on course to win a domestic treble. They are two wins from wrapping up the title, in the Nedbank Cup semi-final where they’ll face Royal AM, while they’ve already won the MTN8.