Home competition discipline Possession key in Casablanca cauldron says Kekana

Possession key in Casablanca cauldron says Kekana

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Wydad Athletic Club of Morocco and Mamelodi Sundown clash in the first leg of the inaugural African Football League final on Sunday night, with Sundowns keen to get a result that will see them return home for the second leg cock-a-hoop.

Hlompho Kekana of Mamelodi Sundowns says he was impressed by how Sundowns played their own game in the semi-final second leg against Al Ahly in Cairo last Wednesday, despite being put under pressure, and said more of the same in what will be another cauldron and a hostile crowd in Casablanca would do the trick. Picture: Samuel Shivambu, BackpagePix

Hlompho Kekana knows only too well the pressure that comes with playing Wydad Athletic Club of Morocco in their backyard at the Stade Mohamed V in Casablanca.

And as Mamelodi Sundowns look to register their first-ever win away against their continental nemesis, the retired former Brazilians skipper believes “keeping possession” is the only way the SA champions will get some joy.

The two teams clash in the first leg of the inaugural African Football League (AFL) final on Sunday night (8pm kick-off), with Sundowns keen to get a result that will see them return home for the second leg cock-a-hoop.

“The key will be to keep possession and control play. If they can manage to starve Wydad of the ball, and use it wisely and well, then half the battle will be won,” said the man who captained the SA champions to the Caf Champions League title in 2016.

Kekana was impressed by how Sundowns played their own game in the semi-final second leg against Al Ahly in Cairo last Wednesday, despite being put under pressure, and said more of the same in what will be another cauldron and a hostile crowd in Casablanca would do the trick.

“I’m sure they’ll go into (today’s)match with great confidence after they held Al Ahly goalless,” he said. “Tough as that match was, Sundowns still managed to put together four to five passes, even though they were under pressure – and that will surely see them believing in themselves more as they take on Wydad. Being able to play their normal game and keep possession the way they did helped them to breathe a bit, and that’s what they must do again in Morocco.

“I was impressed that they managed to push the defensive zone very high, and that meant they did not concede errors in front of their box.”

Despite Sundowns not having won at Wydad in six clashes, Kekana believes they are slight favourites to become the inaugural champions of the new continental competition

“I think Wydad right now are a new team trying to find themselves. Of course they remain their usual aggressive selves, and will have that fanatical support, which helps them,” Kekana said.

“But Sundowns know how to deal with such, and the key will be for them not to concede a goal. And if the opportunity presents itself for them to score, they must use it so they can come home with an advantage.”

That is easier said than done, as Sundowns have only ever scored once at Wydad in six clashes – and even then they were beaten 2-1.

But they have a score to settle with the Moroccans, who denied them a chance to get into the Caf Champions League final earlier this year, after they held the South African kings to a 2-2 score on aggregate and went through on the away-goals rule.

It was a bitter way for Masandawana to exit the competition as they hadn’t lost a single match in the campaign – Wydad advancing with a 2-2 draw, coming courtesy of a late own goal by Mothobi Mvala as Rulani Mokwena’s team looked set to reach the final.

They can make amends now and go on to win the $4 million (almost R73m) prize money – that’s nearly the equivalent of winning the local DStv Premiership title five times.

Matshelane Mamabolo

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