A favourable result for the Brazilians in the return leg will see them qualify for the group stage for six seasons in a row.
JOHANNESBURG – Manqoba Mngqithi says he’s optimistic that they’ll be able to force Maniema Union to commit mistakes when they visit Mamelodi Sundowns in the second leg of the Champions League second round preliminary qualifiers on Sunday afternoon.
Last Sunday, the Brazilians started their continental season away to Maniema in the Democratic Republic of Congo. They ended the match the happiest of the two teams after the 2-2 draw, taking a healthy two-goal advantage coming to Tshwane.
A favourable result for the Brazilians in the return leg will see them qualify for the group stage for the last six seasons. But Mngqithi who has been part and parcel of that incredible milestone knows that won’t come easy against their visitors.
He believes that they’ll pose a threat – just like they did in their own backyard. But, nonetheless, with the Loftus Versfeld Stadium having proven to be their slaughterhouse before, Mngqithi banks on his charges to force Maniema to commit errors.
“We have seen what the opponent presents. But we believe that we’ve got a team that is capable of playing against those guys. The conditions against those guys weren’t very good. It was very hot,” said Mngqithi, the Brazilians’ co-coach.
“It was very hot and we played on an artificial turf. We made a lot of technical mistakes. As a result, even the goal they scored, from Mosa (Lebusa’s) mistake, was an outcome of not being familiar with an artificial turf as the ball stopped.”
Domestic and continental football matches may be two worlds apart. But that Sundowns are unbeaten at home this season after winning five matches and drawing just one in the domestic campaign could spell danger for the DRC-based side.
“We are very hopeful that we’ve got what it takes to pin them down and force them to make errors. In our home ground, we are always optimistic that it will be a very tough game for them. But we have to respect them,” the 50-year-old said.”
After conceding two goals away from home in the first leg, Mngqithi knows that they’ll have to give Maniema some form of respect. Maniema, after all, have proved that they are dangerous on counter-attacks, speed and turnover situations.
“They’ve got the capacity. They have very good wing-play. Their full-backs are both aggressive going forward. Their wingers are always looking for open possibilities in 1-v-1 situations. They’ve got a very powerful striker, Kitwa,” Mngqithi said.
Sundowns, though, will be high on confidence heading to the return match. On Wednesday night, they extended their lead to four points at the top of the standings and unbeaten run, since the start of the season, to 11 matches in all competitions.
That midweek 1-0 win away to Golden Arrows also meant that they’ve kept 10 successive clean sheets in 10 league matches, equalling the record of defunct Bidvest Wits. But Mngqithi had special praises for returning wing-back Khuliso Mudau.
“When he (Mudau) came off, it is funny that myself and coach Wendell (Robinson) said ‘he’s probably the Man of the Match because he had an outstanding game on the day’. He’s growing in leaps and bounds,” Mngqithi reflected.
“And we are happy as a group because we want the competition between him and Thapelo (Morena) to stay strong because it’s good for us to have two people that can always give a good account of themselves. We are happy with Mudau.”