Mamelodi Sundowns once again failed to get a win in West Africa, but coach Pitso Mosimane will leave Ivory Coast content with the point earned against ASEC Mimoas as the Brazilians did what he predicted they would do on Tuesday.
The former Caf Coach of the Year predicted that his team would collect four points from ASEC after the two sides were drawn together in Group A of the Caf Champions League, along with Wydad Casablanca of Morocco and Nigeria’s Lobi Stars.
Sundowns did just that with a goalless draw in Abidjan on Tuesday, which came after their 3-1 win over the Ivorians at Loftus Versfeld.
It’s not an ideal result, but a point is better than nothing, especially with Sundowns’ woes in West Africa. In their six trips to the region, Sundowns have drawn twice and lost four times.
The Brazilians kept their cool in humid conditions and the boiling heat of Abidjan. They conserved their energy by drawing ASEC in, and then looked to hit them when they go on a lull.
Their pace, especially in the second half when the conditions improved, became an important arsenal for the Tshwane side in search of their first win in West Africa.
Sundowns have found things hard in this part of the continent in the Champions League and Caf Confederation Cup.
They were stunned by Nigeria’s lowly Lobi Stars in Enugu in their opening match of this season’s Champions League group stage campaign.
That loss was a continuation of a pattern. In recent years, they have gone to Guinea (to face Horoya), Togo (AS Togo-Port), Ghana (Medeama) and Nigeria (Enyimba) without success, despite their profile rising in continental football in the last four years.
That’s why Mosimane was cautious in his assessment of what would be a good result in Abidjan.
Despite outclassing the Ivorians in the home leg in Pretoria, Mosimane said he wouldn’t mind a draw, because there is no guarantee that you will win away in the Champions League.
Al-Ahly can attest to that. Caf’s Club of the Century lost to minnows in continental football, Simba, in their trip to Tanzania on Tuesday.
The Brazilians and ASEC started with a low tempo on a cabbage-patch of a pitch at Stade Felix Houphouet-Boigny.
Sundowns quickly adjusted to the conditions and still managed to spray the ball around with ease. As the match progressed, Sundowns found each other with ease in an unfamiliar blue-and-white kit.
Denis Onyango, who missed the home leg against ASEC due to injury, returned with his towering figure in Sundowns’ goal.
The Ugandan goalkeeper managed to keep a clean sheet despite the pressure from the hosts towards the end of the match.
This draw means that Sundowns are now on seven points after four matches. They have to collect maximum points at home next month against Lobi Stars to sit on 10 points.
Mosimane’s grand plan is that Sundowns must do enough in their first five games so that when they visit Wydad in Casablanca on 16 March, they don’t go there needing a result to qualify for the knockout stage.
That means a win over the Nigerians is a must if they are to do better than last season, in a disappointing campaign that saw them crash out in the group stage.