The Algerian side mounted an amazing comeback, winning 3-0 and taking the trophy on penalty kicks.
If he is trying to guard against complacency in his players ahead of Sunday’s Champions League final, second leg against Zamalek in Alexandria, perhaps Pitso Mosimane would do well to pin this statistic to the dressing room wall. Strange things can happen in football, and the job is, in every sense, only half done.
Having said that, oh what a half-job it was at the Lucas Moripe Stadium in Atteridgeville on Saturday, from Mosimane, who got his tactical game plan spot on, to the players, who executed it with aplomb, to the fans, who packed the stadium to capacity in support of not just Sundowns’, but South Africa’s mission to win this year’s Champions League. This is atmosphere one would so love to see every week in stadiums across the land.
So Sundowns have a heavy 3-0 lead to take to Egypt, and it is a lead, whatever happened in 1976, and even if you look at Zamalek’s 4-0 home win in the semifinal, that makes the Brazilians extreme favourites to come home with a first continental trophy in their history. Having the away leg second is only an advantage if you get a decent result in the first leg, and Zamalek got an appalling result. However much Moamen Soliman’s side talk up their chances, Downs have now beaten them three times in this competition. 1976, meanwhile, is firmly the exception that proves the rule – it is the only time that a side have turned over this kind of deficit to win in the competition’s 50-year history as a two-leg final.
Mosimane has always spoken sincerely of chasing a star on Sundowns’ jersey, and he is now set to reap the ultimate reward of taking this competition with the seriousness it deserves. We can talk all we like about how Sundowns got into the group stages through the back door, but that is just set to become a footnote in an incredible story of triumph.
The Sundowns coach is an excellent tactician and he has been backed up to the hilt by his players since the group stages of this competition began. A special mention must go to men like Percy Tau, Tiyani Mabunda and Anthony Laffor, who played bit-part roles in Sundowns’ Absa Premiership triumph last season, but who have stormed to the fore as the Champions League has gone on. We speak to Laffor on Page 9 about what it will mean to him to win the continent’s most prestigious competition.
While Sundowns dominate Africa, the domestic season goes on, and we also have all the latest from the Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates camps. Interestingly, it is Amakhosi starting to kick on under Steve Komphela, while Muhsin Ertugral has his problems at Pirates – the Buccaneers were extremely fortunate to get a point on Sunday afternoon. With the Soweto derby coming up at the end of this month, it is Ertugral who needs to find some answers.
Elsewhere, we speak to Jabulani Mendu and Benedict Vilakazi, two legends of the local game doing their bit to help the youth in this country. Enjoy.