Mamelodi Sundowns still ’not sharp enough’ despite Al Hilal win
JOHANNESBURG - While Mamelodi Sundowns got their Caf Champions League group stage campaign off to a flying start with a Al Hilal 2-0 at home, coach Manqoba Mngqithi was left frustrated with his team's poor finishing.
After raiding the transfer market with ease during the pre-season window, making marquee signings, the Brazilians appeared to have secured themselves a potent attack on paper. But in recent outings it's been striker Peter Shalulile who has stood head and shoulders above his peers.
The Namibian striker is Sundowns' leading goal scorer this season with nine goals in 19 appearances, while also making five assists.
But on Saturday he left the scoring duties to defender Mosa Lebusa and striker Kermit Erasmus.
The two goals that the duo scored were enough to earn Sundowns all three points in their opening group stage match against the Sudanese giants in a group that also contains TP Mazembe from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Algerian-based side CR Belouizdad.
TP Mazembe and CR Belouizdad played out to a goalless draw in their respective opener, allowing Sundowns to top the group.
But Mngqithi is still wary of his team's misfortunes up front, considering they can prevail – in domestic and continental football – when they are clinical.
“I think the game panned out the way we thought, but one still complains because I think we are not sharp enough. We create some nice scoring chances, but we never take them. But it will come, maybe with some confidence,” Mngqithi said.
Sundowns had mixed results in January.
Even though they are at the summit of the Premiership standings with 33 points from 15 games, they dropped points unnecessarily with three successive draws with SuperSport United, Swallows FC and Bloemfontein Celtic.
“Our goal ratio is not bad. But if you look at the expected return, considering the chances that we create, we always look like a team that can score many goals. But unfortunately, we don't bury our chances like we should. But we don't want to put pressure on the players,” Mngqithi said.
Sundowns will return to continental football with an away clash against CR Belouizdad next Tuesday. Should they get three points from that encounter, they would take a step closer to the knockout stage of the competition, where they finished as quarter-finalists last season.
A lot has happened since then though. Coach Pitso Mosimane has since vacated the hot seat, taking over the reins at African Club of the Century Al Ahly where he won the Champions League to qualify for the Club World Cup where they finished third.
“It was our wish to win this one (the game) because we always emphasise at Sundowns that we need to win the games.
“Winning home games always gives you a chance of progressing to the quarter-finals. Three points at home buys you a bit of aggression especially going to an away match," Mngqithi said.
Sundowns will be out to consolidate their lead at the top of the league when they host Baroka FC at Loftus on Wednesday.
The latter have blown hot and cold this season, but they should be more than motivated to take on the champions.