Johannesburg — Mamelodi Sundowns’ defender Grant Kekana is confident that they’ll be able overturn the 2-1 deficit in the second leg of the CAF Champions League quarter-final against Petro de Luanda and progress to the semi-final.
Last Saturday, the Brazilians got a reality check in the continental showpiece as they lost to the Angolans away from home. This was their first loss in the competition this season, having been undefeated in the group stages.
However, Sundowns didn’t go down due to lack of effort. They took the lead from a well-taken set-piece by Lyle Lakay, before Petro responded through goals from Tiago Azulao and Yano in the first half.
Sundowns were the most unfortunate of the two teams as Neo Maema had a well taken strike ruled out by the Video Assistant Referee (VAR), while Themba Zwane also struck the upright.
But with the second leg set to be hosted at the FNB Stadium on Saturday where Sundowns will have the backing of their 12th man, given that they were also busy with fan activations this week, they are confident about their chances of reaching the last four.
“We are very confident that we’ll overturn the deficit,” Kekana said. “Sundowns have been a group of unity. Even with bad results, the coaches always tell us that we mustn’t be too low for a long time.
“So even when we are winning, they also tell us that we mustn’t be too high for too long. We are pretty confident going into the game. We have to apply ourselves accordingly and hopefully the result will favour us.”
The odds will favour Sundowns on the day given the home advantage and the backing of their supporters.
Moreover, passage to the semi-final will mean that they’ll keep their chances of winning an unprecedented quadruple alive.
The Brazilians are two wins away from wrapping up the league title, while they are in the Nedbank Cup semi-final where they’ll meet Royal AM. They’ve already won the MTN8.
But in the midst of that euphoria, Kekana says they are guarding against complacency and taking each game as it comes.
“We’ve obviously put ourselves in a good position, but we don’t want to get complacent,” he said. “We know that we still have to play the games. It looks good when you read or hear about it (the quadruple).
“We know that we have to put in the hard yards and we want to continue with how we started the season by taking each game at a time. We want to ensure that we fire before we talk about lifting trophies.”
Kekana has had a memorable first season at Sundowns as he’s fitted nicely in their defensive heartbeat alongside players such as Brian Onyango, Mosa Lebusa and Rushine De Reuck after his move from rivals SuperSport United.
However, he’s credited his seamless adaptation to the guidance of the coaches, Manqoba Mngqithi, Rulani Mokwena and Steve Komphela, and the camaraderie between the players.
“I am learning a lot, especially from the coaches about the type of football that Mamelodi Sundowns play,” he said. “But what also made it easier is that there are players within the team that I played with in junior level.
“There’s a lot of quality at Sundowns, so you have to prove that you are capable of taking your chances when you get them. I knew it was going to be hard but I have always been up for the challenge.”