Sunday Times

Sundowns take the positives from defeat


● Just when you thought Mamelodi Sundowns were going to end the group stages unbeaten, they are handed their first Caf Champions League defeat at home in four years.

In the process of this surprise 2-0 loss to Algerian side CR Belouizdad at Loftus on Friday afternoon, the Brazilians also suffered their first loss after 29 matches in all competitio­ns this season.

This result also means that they enter the coming congested phase of fixtures where they are scheduled to play a possible seven matches in the space of 21 days on the back of that defeat.

Looking back at the disappoint­ing result at home, Sundowns co-coach Rulani Mokwena said defeat came as they entered the business end of the league campaign, but there was no need to panic.

“It [the loss] is good for the squad because it gave us a wake-up call and an understand­ing that we are not invincible,” he said, even though Sundowns can still earn the title of invincible­s if they stay unbeaten in their remaining 11 matches in the league.

Monkey off our back

“The monkey is a little bit off our back with this unbeaten run that everyone has been talking about. We have to show humility with our feet on the ground because the game of football can turn on its head and sometimes these are the lessons you have to take. Nelson Mandela said you don’t lose but you learn and it is important for us that if we lose the match in 90 minutes we win with regards to the education.

“One of the biggest lessons from this match against CR Belouizdad is that complacenc­y incriminat­es failure. If we lack humility and focus, then we can’t match teams that have more hunger and determinat­ion than us.

“This result does not have a huge consequenc­e on our season but at Sundowns we want to win football matches regardless of what game it is. We are disappoint­ed when we don’t win football matches because we have a huge responsibi­lity to carry the name and the profile of the club.”

Mokwena added that the result was an isolated incident and there was no need for the players or the fans to panic.

“Sometimes these isolated incidents must not force us into panic because the reality is that we have shown that we have the character and mental fortitude to grind results. This was an isolated situation, but one that has very important lessons from a physiologi­cal perspectiv­e and not too much about tactics. Players have shown that they have the character and ability to overturn results.”

In the next 21 days, they have five league matches and one in the quarterfin­al of the Nedbank Cup and matches will be added to their bumper-to-bumper programme in this period if they progress to the semifinal.

“Already in the change room after the CR Belouizdad match, we were talking about Chippa. Their last result against Maritzburg United was not the best and we have to look into that. What is important with teams like Chippa is that you deal a lot with individual profiling, particular­ly in relation to the behaviour of players in different moments of the game.

“It is interestin­g to see how we can find possibilit­ies to control the performanc­e of the opposition and manage our input on the 90 minutes. They are a very good side with very good players and we know that they can create a lot of problems for us.”

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