JOHANNESBURG – The gloves are off, and any team that takes on Mamelodi Sundowns looking for a fight are going to get it.
This was the promise from the Brazilians’ coach Pitso Mosimane following their 2-1 win over Wydad Casablanca in an ill-tempered Caf Champions League Group A match at the Lucas Moripe Stadium on Saturday night.
A livid Mosimane said the days of playing nice were over, particularly in continental competition where north African sides like Wydad have generally ruled supreme thanks to bullying tactics.
“You know we are supposed to be boxing, but people take their gloves off,” Mosimane said.
“So, you decide if you’re also going to take your gloves off or you will fight (clean) with your gloves on. We took them off also and gave them a taste of their own medicine.
“I think you know what’s going to happen to us when we get to Casablanca in the last match. Hopefully we don’t wait for that last match to get the result (that will take us to the quarter-finals).”
Sundowns’ win over Wydad opened Group A. The four teams, along with Lobi Stars and ASEC Mimosas, are all tied on three points after two rounds.
The Brazilians will face ASEC back-to-back next month, starting with a home tie on February 1 before making the trip to Abidjan. The last two matches will be played in March, a home tie against Stars and then a trip to Casablanca.
In beating Wydad, Sundowns not only showed superior tactical acumen, but they also played with street smarts.
They gave Wydad some of the gamesmanship North African teams are famous for.
The ball boys dragged their feet, Sundowns strategically killed time, but importantly, they refused to be bullied by the former African champions – showing good mental strength instead of cowering from the pressure, like most teams do against North African teams.
It was a perfect response to criticism that Sundowns are one-dimensional, always wanting to play beautiful football, even in matches that need gladiators.
“Gone are the days of Sundowns being cheese boys and good boys. Not when I am here,” Mosimane said afterwards.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man, Mshishi certainly stepped up to the plate last night as he scored 2 excellent goals to secure an all important win at home!— Mamelodi Sundowns FC (@Masandawana) January 20, 2019
Mamelodi Sundowns 2:1 Wydad AC
⚽️ 7' Zwane
⚽️ 34' Nahiri
⚽️ 64' Zwane#Sundowns #DownsWydad #CAFCL pic.twitter.com/6Gb6GJP3EZ
“We have to fight fire with fire, even in the local game – the PSL. We will fight fire with fire. Anywhere we go. Any stadium we go to, we are going to fight fire with fire, and if you don’t have that spirit and mentality – you’ll never play in my team. Never!
“You will never win any title. Being faint-hearted doesn’t win you anything. Forget about it. It’s gone.
“We’ll have time to play beautiful football and entertain everybody, but when a fight comes – we will give the fight. It is the way it is. We know what is going to happen when we go away. We are ready for that.”
Meanwhile, the Brazilians refuted claims by Wydad, before the match, that Sundowns didn’t send someone to fetch them from the airport and give them a bus as they must.
“They didn’t tell us when they are arriving,” Sundowns’ acting general manager, Yogesh Singh, said.
“We had everything booked for them. When we found out they were in the country, we arranged everything for them. It’s about communication. There was a failure in communication. The rules say they must communicate their itinerary to the Moroccan federation, who must tell Safa, and Safa will tell us.
“We make the arrangements. They didn’t tell us. We have our plans, and we have plan B (for Morocco).”