The Star Late Edition
Sundowns have chance to remove question mark
THE good news for Mamelodi Sundowns as they seek to put themselves in line for a Champions League final is that they have no problem with finding the opposition net.
The Brazilians, who take on defending champions Wydad AC in the first leg of their semifinal at the Stade Mohamed V in Casablanca tomorrow, are the highest scoring team of the four remaining sides.
In 10 matches, the South African champions have found the opposition net an incredible 35 times – way more than Wydad, as well as Esperance and Al Ahly, who meet in the other semi-final today.
Granted, a big chunk of those goals (16) were scored in the early round against lowly La Passe of the Seychelles. But that should not be allowed to take away from Sundowns’ prolific form in front of goal.
What should give coach Rulani Mokwena and everyone associated with Sundowns confidence is the fact that some of those goals have not only been scored by the forwards, but that just about everyone has contributed.
An impressive 16 players have scored, with three of those 35 strikes having been own goals by their adversaries.
It has been because of their finishing prowess that Sundowns are not only the top scorers, but that they are also the only team yet to lose a match in the competition this season.
In those 10 matches, they have won eight and drawn just twice – at Al Ahly and Al Hilal.
In contrast, their opponents have been beaten three times – Wydad suffering defeats against Rivers United in the qualifiers, JS Kabylie in the group stage, as well as to Simba in the quarter-finals.
Of course, none of those losses had a bearing on the Moroccan giants’ progress to the semis.
But those are the kind of results that would have seen Mokwena look at as he prepared for the 11th meeting between the two sides.
He would have looked at just how and what it was that the trio did to manage to get the better of the Wydad.
Sundowns are yet to beat Wydad in Morocco after five matches, and while they do not necessarily have to win the first leg to book a place in the final, a maiden victory will definitely go a long way towards helping them realise their goal of adding a second star above their club crest.
While Mokwena was part of the technical team when Sundowns conquered Africa in 2016, he was second in charge to Pitso Mosimane, and nothing would help him confirm his status as one of South Africa’s top coaches than by delivering Africa’s ultimate club football prize to Chloorkop.
He has the players to do just that, and the fact that only Themba Zwane was in that victorious squad seven years ago, means he is in charge of a group hungry to have their names etched into Sundowns’ history books.
The likes of Peter Shalulile are revered in the Premiership for their prolific scoring and winning numerous trophies but until they win the Champions League, there will always be a question mark about their status as Sundowns legends.
They have a fantastic opportunity to remove that question mark having gotten this far in the Champions League.
Now all they have to do is continue in their brilliant scoring vein to get a step closer to continental glory.