- Sundowns failed to win in Sudan
- They were held 1-1 by Al Hilal
- Mokwena dismisses conspiracies behind the result
WHAT HAPPENED? The Brazilians drew 1-1 with Al Hilal in Saturday’s Caf Champions League Group B match away in Omdurman on Saturday. It was a match Al Hilal needed to win to reach the quarter-finals but they still collected a point to go three points clear of third-placed Al Ahly.
That makes the last group game between Al Ahly and Al Hilal a must-win for both sides to qualify for the knockouts.
Before Saturday’s match at Al Hilal Stadium, there were conspiracy theories that Sundowns intended not to win, to give the Sudanese giants an edge over Al Ahly.
The claims suggested Masandawana were keen on seeing Al Ahly out of the tournament after the Cairo giants knocked them out of the Champions League twice in the last three seasons.
So serious were the allegations that Sundowns had to institute disciplinary proceedings on their travel logistics and liaison officer Khaled Ali. Ali allegedly shared analytical data about Al Hilal in an Al Ahly Twitter Space.
WHAT MOKWENA SAID: “Firstly, I’m not paid to judge any team,” Mokwena told the media. “I try to judge my team and before I judge my team, I judge myself. I ask myself, ‘did everything possible to win the game?’ So we didn’t win the game and that’s [the blame] on me.
"First, I put pressure on myself before I put pressure and judgment on anybody else."
“Secondly, I do not respond to the media. I just say the work is on the pitch and things we do are on the pitch. We tried to win the game and it was evident on the pitch.”
THE BIGGER PICTURE: After Masandwana took a lead through Khuliso Mudau on Saturday, Al Hilal hit back through Mohamed Abdelrahman shortly after. They conceded after goalkeeper Ronwen Williams made a costly error that gifted Abdelrahman an easy goal.
Williams’ howler could give credence to the conspiracy theories that Sundoens allowed Al Hilal to earn a point from the contest.
However, what could worry Sundowns fans is how their team has shared spoils in three of their last six games across all competitions. The setbacks which started with the 2-2 draw away at Al Ahly came after Sundowns had gone on an impressive 14-match winning streak.
WHAT NEXT FOR SUNDOWNS? The Brazilians now go for the Fifa international break but eight of their players will be active with Bafana Bafana.
They return on March 31 when they host Cotonsport Garoua in their last group game which is a dead rubber as Masandawana have qualified for the quarter-finals while the Cameroonians are out of the tournament.