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Sundowns won't change their identity against Petro, says Manqoba Mngqithi

FILE - Mamelodi Sundowns co-coach Manqoba Mngqithi. Photo: Dirk Kotze/BackpagePix

FILE - Mamelodi Sundowns co-coach Manqoba Mngqithi. Photo: Dirk Kotze/BackpagePix

Published Apr 22, 2022

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Johannesburg — Mamelodi Sundowns are hellbent on keeping their identity when they clash with Petro de Luanda in a crucial CAF Champions League quarter-final match in Soweto on Saturday.

That they lost 2-1 away from home in the first leg is not making them quake in their boots.

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Sundowns rose from their ruins to become one of the powerhouses of African football in the last decade. To an extent they even conquered the continent six years ago under the guidance of Pitso Mosimane.

While they’ve either huffed and puffed or breezed through the group stage to reach the quarter-final, they’ve failed to put another star above their crest though as they've mostly choked in the knockout stage.

This season, they seemed to be on track to dust off those misfortunes after an impressive outing in the group stage, until life in the knockout stage didn’t get off to the ideal start. They lost to Petro away at the Estadio 11 de Novembro.

But having been part and parcel of Sundowns’ illustrious run locally and continentally, including being Mosimane deputy in 2016, co-coach Manqoba Mngqithi knows all about overturning deficits at home.

Sure, they might have come short in the quarter-final last year after losing away to eventual champions Al Ahly 2-0 before drawing 1-all at home, but Mngqithi takes confidence from the fact that they have an away goal this time around.

“I am a very positive person by nature,” Mngqithi said ahead of the return leg at the FNB Stadium this evening. “We’ve done this because I want to look at what’s positive.”

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In the midst of his positive character, Mngqithi is not naïve thinking that history will repeat itself against the Angolans. After all, that they came back from a goal down to win the first leg shows that they are not to be taken lightly at all.

That’s why the Sundowns’ co-coach has relayed their perfect plan of sticking to their identity.

“We are a team that wants to dominate the field and the ball,” he said. “Dominating the pitch means dominating all the duels, aerially and on the ground, and winning all the battles, in 1v1 and in groups.

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“We want to see our team giving us what we are used to. We’ve got our own averages that we normally get in terms of how many chances and passes we get in a match.”

Winning the Champions League will mean more than just conquering the continent to Sundowns this season as they'll be eager to keep their targets of winning an unprecedented quadruple alive.

They are also two matches away from winning the league and are in the Nedbank Cup semi-final where they'll face Royal AM, while they've already won the MTN8.

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The Brazilians know that the road to the pinnacle is quite bumpy and difficult to navigate. So they’ve mobilised the 'Yellow Nation' to fill up the Calabash to its 50% capacity, while they also opened up their training session to the fans on Thursday morning.

“I think it’s the best decision, I don’t want to lie to you,” said Mngqithi after being quizzed about opening up their training session to the fans.

“I’ve seen it with many European teams. And I think it brings a lot of ownership on the side of the spectators because they’ve seen the preparations and they don't take things for granted. So already they start assuming this might be the starting line-up.

“When I was growing up, I used to see AmaZulu when they were training in Durban and at times, they would have 5000 to 10000 supporters in training.

"And that had a big impact on the number of people that were supporting football then.”

@Mihlalibaleka

IOL Sport

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