CAF Champions League: Mokwena defends Mamelodi Sundowns' tactics in heated press exchange

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CAF Champions League: Mokwena defends Mamelodi Sundowns' tactics in heated press exchange

Festus Chuma 11:52 - 21.04.2024

Mamelodi Sundowns coach Rulani Mokwena has disputed claims his team was outplayed and has criticized Esperance's defensive tactics in CAF semi-final loss.

Mamelodi Sundowns head coach Rulani Mokwena took center stage in a fiery post-match press conference where he robustly defended his team’s performance following a 1-0 loss to Esperance in the CAF Champions League semi-final first leg in Tunis. 

The defeat on Saturday evening saw Sundowns falter despite dominating possession and creating more scoring opportunities than the Tunisian side.

The debate ignited when a local journalist suggested that Sundowns were tactically outplayed by Esperance who managed to secure a crucial lead to bring to the second leg in Tshwane next week. 

“I don’t agree that tactically Esperance won, I fully disagree. In football, there are two very important things during the 90 minutes: how many chances you create and who created the most. Sundowns created more opportunities, so how can you say Esperance defended better?," he said.

Mokwena's argument centered on the tactical approach taken by Esperance, commonly referred to as "parking the bus," a strategy where a team focuses heavily on defense while sacrificing offensive efforts. 

 “How many times do you see Esperance parking the bus at home, and are you guys happy to see one of your biggest clubs playing this way against Sundowns?," he questioned.

The discussion then shifted as another journalist rephrased the question, suggesting that Esperance’s efficiency with their limited possession was the deciding factor in the game. 

Mokwena acknowledged the point but differentiated it from overall performance and tactics. 

“Efficiency is not performance and tactics. You’re right, you’re efficient if you create one chance and score from it. That’s a completely different discussion,” he remarked.

Despite the challenging dialogue, Mokwena stood firm in his defense of Mamelodi Sundowns' strategy and execution. 

He emphasized that his team's ability to generate more scoring opportunities and maintain control of the game was indicative of their superior play, despite the final score. 

“They conceded more chances than Sundowns. How do you defend well if you concede more chances than the opposition? Maybe there’s a different perspective to the way I analyze football," he added.

The South African champions enjoyed 61% possession during the match, registering seven shots at goal with two on target. 

However, Esperance's Brazilian forward, Yan Sasse, managed to put the only goal on the board in the first half, leaving Sundowns with a deficit to recover from in the upcoming second leg.

The upcoming fixture in Tshwane promises to be a highly anticipated battle, as Sundowns aim to overturn their one-goal disadvantage and secure a place in the final of Africa’s elite club competition. 

The match is scheduled for Friday evening at 9 PM East Africa Time where Sundowns will have another chance to prove their tactical prowess on the continental stage.

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