JOHANNESBURG - In the aftermath of Mamelodi Sundowns being knocked out of the Caf Champions League on Tuesday night, coach Pitso Mosimane came down hard on continental football, slamming the opposition for time-wasting tactics and officials for turning a blind eye to infractions.
Whether this was sour grapes or cold, hard facts is left to anybody’s interpretation. The Brazilians were eliminated from Africa’s premier club competition after Horoya AC of Guinea held them to a goalless draw and joined Wydad Casablanca in the last eight. Sundowns needed all three points to progress to the quarter-finals.
“I am proud that my players had soul, fair play, and we were clean. We could have easily instructed them to roll around on the floor to wind down the clock when we were leading 2-1 against Horoya in Conakry, but we kept playing and they equalised from a corner late in the game,” Mosimane said in his post-match reaction at Lucas Moripe Stadium.
Horoya on Tuesday night showed no sign of playing for a draw in the opening minutes of the group stage clash, although a single point would have taken them through to the quarter-finals. But deep into the second half the Guinea outfit dropped back in numbers, occasionally appearing to feign injuries to frustrate Sundowns. Mosimane felt Tunisian referee Sadok Selmi should have added more than the four minutes of extra-time.
“You will never see a referee add seven minutes like we have seen here in the PSL when there has been an injury or time-wasting,” the Sundowns coach claimed. “This is why we are behind in Africa from our Europe counterparts. Everywhere we played, people were falling all over the place and wasting time.
"If you are not streetwise and clever in how you manoeuvre in Africa, you will never do well in this competition... People look at the PSL and want to compare it to the Champions League. You can’t because it’s a different ball game there and we are paying our school fees.”
Mosimane also insisted that despite being crowned 2016 champions, they were still very much wet behind the ears when it comes to continental football. “People need to be patient with us... We are babies in this thing,” he said of their elimination.
While SA clubs may not have always taken the Champions League seriously because of the strenuous travelling logistics and how it ends up affecting their domestic performance, Sundowns - as well as 1995 champions Orlando Pirates - have often been acknowledged for flying the flag.
“Look at the top five sides in Africa, clubs like Al Ahly and Zamalek. How many times have they won this competition? We are still paying our school fees. In this competition you can win without playing well. We will get there,” he said.
Tuesday night’s result also meant that Sundowns, the reigning SA champions, have now gone four games without a win - and a goal - in all competitions. Mosimane said this was the price they were paying for creating plenty of chances but not converting them.
“We threw everything at them, took all the risks, but that is football - when you don’t take your chances and you need a win, that is the way it goes. There was not much in the game but we controlled and did everything. We have to take the positives, but our problem is that we couldn’t score,” he explained.