Mamelodi Sundowns’ journey in the CAF Champions League ended on Saturday afternoon following a 2-1 aggregate defeat to Wydad Casablanca at the Lucas Moripe Stadium in Atteridgeville.
The team from Morocco were stubborn and rigid from the opening minute, making it tough for coach Pitso Mosimane’s men to break them down in search of a goal that would have overturned the tie. Wydad beat Downs in the first leg in Rabat a week ago and the South Africans had hoped to use the away goal scored by defender Anele Ngcongca to their advantage.
A narrow 1-0 victory would have been enough for Sundowns to progress to the final of the Champions League, where they would have met reigning champions Esperance after the Tunisian outfit were able to defeat TP Mazembe over two legs.
But it wasn’t to be – and the 2016 title holders are hopeful they will be back in the Champions League next season, though they first have to confirm their place in the top two of the domestic Absa Premiership table.
Coach Mosimane put out his heavy artillery from the goal posts with Denis Onyango, captain Hlompho Kekana alongside Tiyani Mabunda and a three-man attack of Gaston Sirino, Thapelo Morena and Lebohang Maboe.
However, they couldn’t break down Wydad’s unwavering wall at the back as Downs registered a single shot on target. The home side did enjoy the lion’s share of the ball possession, with more than double the number of passes Wydad had – as well as a pass accuracy of 72 percent compared to Wydad’s 52. But this didn’t lead to a lot of clear cut chances, with the visitors alert whenever Downs were pressing in search of the goal that eventually eluded them.
It is not all lost for Mosimane’s men. The Brazilians have a chance to still win the Premier League title with their fate in their own hands in their remaining two matches in the domestic campaign. Sundowns face Golden Arrows on Tuesday and then travel to Goble Park to play Free State Stars – win both matches and they will be crowned champions, while also having the opportunity to return to Champions League football later this year.
Sundowns are second on the table and trail leaders Orlando Pirates by just one point, though they have a game in hand.
How Downs lined up:
Onyango, Ngcongca, Langerman, Lebusa, Nascimento, Kekana, Mabunda, Zwane, Sirino, Morena, Maboe
Subs: Mweene, Arendse, Vilakazi, Lakay, Tade, Mahlambi, Coetzee