Wydad v Sundowns – a fierce rivalry

Wydad v Sundowns – a fierce rivalry

Mosa Lebusa of Mamelodi Sundowns clears ball from Zouheir El Moutaraji of Wydad during the 2019 TOTAL CAF Champions League match between Mamelodi Sundowns and Wydad at the Lucas Moripe Stadium, Atteridgeville on the 19 January 2019 ©Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

It has been well over two years since Mamelodi Sundowns and Wydad Casablanca launched their rivalry in the Caf Champions League and they have since have become sworn rivals on the pitch. 

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.

READ MORE: Pitso planning to break Wydad hoodoo at fifth attempt.

READ MORE: Sundowns beat Pirates and Chiefs in World Club Rankings.

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.

Yannick Zakri and Themba Zwane of Mamelodi Sundowns celebrate during the CAF Champions League match between Mamelodi Sundowns and Wydad Athletic Club at Lucas Moripe Stadium on September 17, 2017 in Pretoria, South Africa. (Photo by Lee Warren/Gallo Images)

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.

Ricardo Nascimento of Mamelodi Sundowns during the 2018 CAF Champions League match between Mamelodi Sundowns and Wydad at Lucas Moripe Stadium, Atteridgeville on 05 May 2018 ©Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

New era, but Wydad still hold Masandawana by theballs’

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.

Thapelo Morena of Mamelodi Sundowns challenged by Ismail El Haddad and Walid El Karti of Wydad during the 2019 TOTAL CAF Champions League match between Mamelodi Sundowns and Wydad at the Lucas Moripe Stadium, Atteridgeville on the 19 January 2019 ©Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

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.

Phakamani Mahlambi of Sundowns reacts in disappointment after final whistle as Sundowns eliminated in semiffinal stage during the 2018/19 CAF Champions League football match between Sundowns and Wydad Casablanca at Lucas Moripe Stadium, Pretoria on 04 May 2019 ©Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

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.

Ayman El Hassouni of Wydad embraced by Pitso Mosimane, coach of Sundowns after final whistle as Sundowns eliminated in semiffinal stage during the 2018/19 CAF Champions League football match between Sundowns and Wydad Casablanca at Lucas Moripe Stadium, Pretoria on 04 May 2019 ©Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

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