JOHANNESBURG – The gulf in class between Chippa United and Wydad Casablanca might be gigantic, but the Chilli Boys, in certain moments on Tuesday, prepared Mamelodi Sundowns well for what they will face at the hands of Wydad in Rabat tomorrow.
The Brazilians flew to Morocco on Tuesday night on a high after beating Chippa United 3-2 at Loftus Versfeld. What should have been a comfortable win was made difficult by Rhulani Manzini’s late goal.
Chippa, who are fighting to avoid relegation, pressed Sundowns towards the end. The Brazilians lived with their hearts in their mouth, and in one heart-stopping moment Kennedy Mweene pulled a brilliant last-minute save which could go a long way in deciding where the Absa Premiership will go.
But the pressure Chippa put Sundowns under is an oven compared to the hellish atmosphere they will face in Rabat in the first leg of the Champions League semi-final against the 2017 winners who dethroned Sundowns.
“I like the pressure a little bit, so that they can taste it as a preparation of what will come in Rabat,” Mosimane said. “Mentally it will help us not to panic and play on the edge. Playing on the edge is better than parking the bus from the first minute.”
Sundowns played with one eye on their trip to Rabat even though they knew they needed maximum points to keep up with Orlando Pirates in the league race. Mosimane rested several key players but also put a formidable line-up against the Chilli Boys who are fighting to avoid the dreaded drop.
Despite those changes, Sundowns were still strong enough to get three points. Jingles could afford to do that with the depth in quality Sundowns have and the fact that they can wrap up their clash with Wydad at home in the return leg.
In previous editions, Sundowns have always had to play at home first and then travel to hostile environments in North Africa against giants like Wydad, Zamalek and Al-Ahly.
“I had to make sure that Denis (Onyango) is ready for the match over there, you have seen what happens,” Mosimane said. “We need Denis in those games. I had to make sure that he should be available. He could have played but do you really want to risk?
All these old legs, Anele (Ngcongca) and Wayne (Arendse) had to rest. So you have to trust Mosa (Lebusa) to do the job and you’ve got to trust other players. So we rested them. It was a tactical decision. We also needed to give Gaston (Sirino) game time, you saw that he was a little bit rusty because he hasn’t played for some time."
“We also had to give Vila (Sibusiso Vilakazi) time to play. Lebo (Maboe) is back, which is good. The bigger one is huge but if I don’t trust players to get us a win against Chippa at home what message am I sending? I had one eye on the match against Wydad.
It’s the way it is, unfortunately we are in that space where we are playing two big competitions and you can’t lose. You can’t lose. It’s a win at all costs.”