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Sundowns can now focus on other competitions, says Manqoba Mngqithi

Mamelodi Sundowns co-coach Manqoba Mngqithi

FILE - Mamelodi Sundowns co-coach Manqoba Mngqithi. Photo: Shaun Roy/BackpagePix

Published Mar 16, 2022

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Johannesburg — Co-coach Manqoba Mngqithi is pleased that Mamelodi Sundowns are one point away from qualifying for the quarter-final of the CAF Champions League as that will give them enough time to focus on the Championship and Nedbank Cup.

Last Saturday, Downs completed a historic double over African champions Al Ahly after beating them 1-0 at home. Rewind to two weeks before that, they beat Ahly for the first time in their own backyard, at Al Salaam Stadium, out in Cairo.

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Albeit the back-to-back wins being sweeter as they came against their former coach Pitso Mosimane, they took Downs to pole position in Group A with a six-point lead over Ahly - while there are two matches remaining in the group stage.

This meant Downs will get a chance to seal their spot in the last eight of the continental showpiece if they get a draw with Al Hilal in Sudan on Saturday afternoon, while they'd also get time to focus on the Champions and Nedbank Cup.

“We are realistic to say, the good work that the players have put in against Ahly and the chance they gave us to qualify for the quarter-final early, is positive as we can give more effort to the championship and Nedbank Cup,” Mngqithi said.

“This win is good in terms of morale as we won two matches against Ahly. But it is even better to know that we beat them back-to-back because that is historic too. But I would not want the team to get carried away. There's a lot to play for.”

In their first clash in the group stage, Downs beat Al Hilal with a solo goal from Themba Zwane at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Stadium. But the Sudanese side showed that they can cause upsets too as they held Ahly before beating Al-Merrikh.

But Mngqithi has cast his eyes beyond Group A opponents as well. He has been impressed with Angolan side Petro de Luanda who are in pole position in Group D where they qualified for the last-eight alongside their rivals Wydad Casablanca.

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“When I look at that team from Angola, we really have to be more clinical and take our chances better,” Mngqithi said. “We really need to focus more and work a little bit harder to ensure that we terminate the attack and the chances that we get.”

The more Downs play in the continental showpiece, the more they appear to be maturing with time. They’ve also mastered that they don’t need to be fancy to win matches as dirty football can win them important matches, as well, at times.

“I’d be lying if I said this is the one (the approach of playing dirty to win). But this was the most intelligent approach," Mngqithi said. "If you check the stats of the matches that we played against Ahly last year, on average we had 64% possession.

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“But what did that do for us? It exposed us on transition and they scored two goals out of nothing. They are not a team that can break down a heavy block or have the ball players. So we had to play the way that this game required us to.”

@Mihlalibaleka

IOL Sport

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Mamelodi Sundowns

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