Occasionally, the battle has spilled off the field, but generally both teams have the highest level of respect for each other once the final whistle has blown.
The constant Champions League pairing of Sundowns and Wydad began in 2017 when Downs were the defending champions after winning it for the first time the year before, and it has since grown to become the one of the most exciting duels on the continent, made more intriguing by the fact that it is a battle between Northern and Southern Africa.
Downs knocked off their perch
Sundowns and Wydad met in the quarterfinals of the 2017 Caf Champions League, with Masandawana defending their title. Masandawana won the first-leg in Pretoria 1-0 and Wydad produced the same result in Casablanca. The tie was forced into penalties where it all crumble for the Brazilians. Sundowns were the first to take a spot-kick and George Lebese converted, but misses from Percy Tau, Yannick Zakri and Bangly Soumahoro brought heartbreak to Downs as Wydad won without needing to take their final kick.
Wydad condemn Sundowns to group stage exit
The following season, Downs and Wydad were drawn into the same group for the first time and the gloves came off with the the previous season’s events still fresh in the memory. Pitso Mosimane’s Sundowns opened the Group C action against the Moroccans at the Lucas Moripe Stadium in Atteridgeville. Sundowns grabbed an early lead in the third minute but it was not of their doing – it was an error by Badr Gaddarine and he turned the ball into his own net. Downs could not capitalize on that as they allowed Wydad to equalise 17 minutes later and the rest of the affair was cagey, ending in a 1-1 draw. Those points dropped at home by Sundowns turned out to be costly in the end as Downs went on to lose the reverse fixture 1-0 and failed to make it out of the group stages.
New era, but Wydad still hold Masandawana by the ‘balls’
2018/19 marked a change in dates for the Champions League but for the second tournament on the trot, Downs and Wydad were drawn into the same group. Like in 2018, Sundowns hosted the first game between the foes and they mustered a 2-1 win. In as much as it was a team effot, that night belonged to Themba Zwane who scored a brace and ended up as a the tournament’s top goal scorer which got him shortlisted for the African Player of the Year award. What is most memorable with this game is that it was played at 9pm on a Saturday – a kick-off time not customary to South African football. It favoured the visitors but Sundowns managed to secure all three points.
So close, yet so far
Both teams advanced to the quarterfinals following impressive showings in the group stage – they qualified on 10 points each with Wydad edging Sundowns to the top of the group based on the head-to-head results. Downs met Egyptian giants Al-Ahly in the quarterfinals and they gave them a footballing lesson with a 5-0 thumping in the first-leg as Downs marched on to the semifinals, while Wydad had it easy with AC Horoya. The stage was set in the last four and the two were drawn against each other for the second time in the knockout stages. This time Wydad hosted the first-leg and won 2-1, leaving Downs needing only a goal and clean-sheet in Pretoria to reach the final. Sundowns dominated that game from the start but it was not to be as the goal just did not come and Wydad marched on the final at the expense of a hurting Sundowns.
Mosimane’s love letter from ‘gatvol’ Wydad fans
A giant banner was held up by the Wydad faithful in the stands earlier this year, reading “Mosimane: Great when teaching you, becoming corrupt when beating you”. This was a response to Mosimane’s comments where he claimed that Wydad players where sore losers and bullies towards the referees. The former Bafana Bafana coach made these comments after Downs beat Wydad 2-1 in the group stage tie. It was clear that the fans were not happy with “Jingles” but he chose to look at the “positive side”, saying no coach has ever had his named hoisted in the stands against the Moroccans – the same country where he was invited to take part in the inaugural Caf Pro license.
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