'We don’t complain at Mamelodi Sundowns, we are strong' - Mokwena after AS Maniema Union draw

Sundowns.

Mamelodi Sundowns co-head coach Rhulani Mokwena insisted that he cannot fault his players’ commitment after they were held to a draw by AS Maniema Union on Sunday afternoon.

The Tshwane giants let their lead slip twice in their 2-2 draw against the DR Congolese side in the first leg of their Caf Champions League first-round tie at Stade des Martyrs in Kinshasa.

“Yeah, always difficult after a Fifa international break. To come back particularly because of course there’s not a lot of training time," Mokwena told the club's media department. 

"And then you miss a couple of players with regards to preparation, and then you get players coming back from different playing concepts and spaces.

"But we showed resilience and a good fight in a very difficult away match, with very difficult conditions and against a very, very good team that was motivated and fought for 90 minutes," he continued. 

"For us, the first half wasn’t very good. We made a lot of, a lot of unforced errors. We struggled a little bit with the boxes today.

"Only in the first-half we managed the two buildups that they got, we created chances immediately from those two scenarios, including the penalty when they started from the back."

Themba Zwane opened the scoring to hand Sundowns the lead, but the hosts made it 1-1 through Kita Kalowa after Mosa Lebusa had given away possession and Mokwena described the incident as unfortunate.

“But I think that then said to them no more starting, and they then went along to Kitwa with the number nine and played off the second ball that forced us a little bit too dragging our line a little bit deeper," he said. 

“Our turnovers were far too much and yeah, unfortunately even with that situation where Mosa, unfortunately, made a miss pass, it started further up when we just couldn’t keep the ball with Pavol [Safranko] and Peter [Shalulile].

"And that was our story in the first half, too many turnovers, very short strings of passes, we couldn’t retain our compactness in possession, and then we struggled a little bit on transition," he explained.

“It was better in the second half even the numbers speak a very good language where we did a little bit better with the boxes, and we did a little bit better with minimizing turn-overs, which helped us to be in a bit more control of the game."

Mokwena and his fellow co-head coach Manqoba Mngqithi introduced Sibusiso Vilakazi, who made an impact on the game by creating Sundowns' second goal, but Tenda Mukuila snatched a late equalizer for Maniema.

"Deservedly we created a very good chance, good goalscoring opportunity with Vila who came in and did exceptionally well, but let down a little bit by a lapse in concentration with a couple of minutes to go," Mokwena added.

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“But you can’t fault the players for the commitment, the intensity, the fight, in a very difficult match amidst difficult conditions, in relation not just the preparation but also the type of conditions we faced.

“But we don’t complain at Sundowns, we are strong, we are gallant and we take the 2-2 and we move.”

Sundowns will now play host to Maniema in the second leg encounter in Pretoria on October 24.