African Champions League: Wydad beat Sundowns 2-1 in first leg of semi-final





Mamelodi Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane

Mamelodi Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane said he was “unhappy with the result” after they lost 2-1 at Wydad Casablanca on Friday in the African Champions League semi-final first leg, but said he was “happy with the performance” of the South African club.

The two clubs have met seven times in three seasons and six of the matches have resulted in one-goal winning margins for the home side. The other was drawn.

Sundowns’ away goal could prove crucial in their home leg next weekend.

It was their first away goal in four clashes against Wydad in Morocco and it took them 311 minutes to finally find the net. 

Veteran right-back Anele Ngcongca, who formerly played in France and Belgium, was the unlikely scorer four minutes before half-time to cancel a Salaheddine Saidi goal.

Instead of occupying a defensive position when Sundowns were awarded a corner in case Wydad counterattacked, he positioned himself at the far post in the Moroccan box.

Moroccan goalkeeper Ahmed Reda Tagnaouti could only parry the set-piece and Ngcongca dived to nod an equaliser that silenced a 40,000-plus crowd in the Moroccan capital.

Saidi had put Wydad, who succeeded Sundowns as African champions in 2017, ahead on 26 minutes by slipping unmarked into the box and unleashing a rising shot over goalkeeper Denis Onyango.

Ugandan Onyango then thwarted Nigerian Michael Babatunde and Ismail el Haddad with brilliant saves as Wydad threatened to go further ahead.

Onyango did, though, make an error for the goal that gave Wydad the lead for a second time just two minutes after half-time.

He failed to hold a low shot from El Haddad and Badie Aouk had the simple task of tapping the ball into the net from close range.

Wydad could have punished Sundowns further. Midfielder Themba Zwane headed against his own post in an attempt to clear a cross eight minutes from time.

In stoppage time, Wydad substitute Gabriel Okechukwu failed to connect with the ball after a blunder from Tebogo Langerman.

Coaches

Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane accepted that there were defensive errors from his team.

“We made a mistake in the first goal. There were a lot of mistakes on defence from our side.

“But it’s also the first time I’ve seen WAC [Wydad Casablanca] stressed like this at the back,” Mosimane said.

A blow for Wydad was the second-half yellow card shown to Mohammed Nahiri, a left-back but the leading scorer for his club in Africa this season with five goals.

The caution rules him out of an intriguing return match, with Sundowns hoping to replicate the form that brought a stunning 5-0 home win over Al Ahly of Egypt in the quarter-finals. 

“I think if we keep doing what we have always done in South Africa when we play Wydad, we should do that, we should not change,” Mosimane told BBC Sport.

“There’s a history of us with Wydad. Here [in Morocco] we always lose here – but with one goal. And when they come to South Africa, they always lose, also with one goal.

“They are a very strong team. They are the favourites, they are the bigger team, the pressure is not on us. The pressure is on them to win. So yes, they can win.

“Anything is possible in football. If Ajax can win in Madrid, anything is possible – so they can also win in South Africa,” Mosimane added.

Experienced Tunisian Faouzi Benzarti, the coach of Moroccan club Wydad Casablanca

His counterpart at Wydad, Tunisian Faouzi Benzarti, said his side should have won by a bigger score-line.

“The game was difficult. Mamelodi Sundowns is a great team with quality players,” Wydad coach Benzarti told BBC Sport.

“We had so many occasions to score a third goal, but we couldn’t. My players made great efforts during the match, but there are some small mistakes to consider.

“Generally, only the best teams in Africa reach the semi-final. Therefore, we have to take all our chances in the second leg. There is still another game and we have to negotiate it well,” Benzarti added.

Defending champions Esperance of Tunisia host TP Mazembe from the Democratic Republic of Congo on Saturday in the other semi-final first leg.

When they last met in the semi-finals, Esperance triumphed 1-0 on aggregate seven years ago, and another close encounter is anticipated. 



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