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FEATURE: What Sundowns should do differently to Pirates in Caf Champions League final

Mamelodi Sundowns have already emulated Orlando Pirates by becoming only the second South African club to reach the final of the Caf Champions League twice.

However, they need to lift the trophy to fully break Bucs’ long-standing record, and in front of them are Egyptian giants Zamalek, who have won the title five times in the past.

In this feature, Goal examines what Sundowns should do to avoid repeating the same mistakes Pirates made ahead of the first leg scheduled for Saturday afternoon in Tshwane.

Win at home

Winning at home in two-legged affairs such as the Caf Champions League final is of paramount importance for any team aiming for the coveted title.

This is the one important rule both Sundowns and Orlando Pirates failed to apply in the past.

However, Pirates got away with it in 1995. They drew 2-2 with ASEC Mimosas in South Africa, but sneaked one past their Ivorian opponents to win the trophy in Abidjan, thanks to Jerry Sikhosana’s decisive strike.

In 2001, Sundowns learnt the hard way, as they were beaten 3-0 in the second leg of the competition’s final in Cairo, after the first leg had ended in a 1-1 draw.

Who can forget what happened recently when Pirates played Al Ahly in Orlando? It took Thabo Matlaba’s late strike to rescue a draw for the Buccaneers, but that was not good enough as the Red Devils ousted them in Cairo in the return leg.

This highlights the importance of winning the home games comfortably and absorbing the pressure away from home.

Sundowns go into Saturday’s clash with an impressive home record in this year’s competition, and winning convincingly would see them put one hand on the trophy.  

Guard against complacency

Pirates should somehow blame themselves for not winning the 2013 Caf Champions League trophy as everybody expected them to, given that they went into the final knowing exactly what to expect from Al Ahly.

At the time, the Buccaneers took four points off Ahly in a convincing 3-0 win away from home, before a draw at home in the group stages on their way to the final.

However, when they met the same team in the final, perhaps they allowed complacency to get the better of them and ended up losing focus in the two-legged final.

Like Pirates and Al Ahly in 2013, Sundowns and Zamalek met in the group stages, but Pitso Mosimane’s men walloped the five-time African champions home and away.

However, this will be a different ball game, and Sundowns should not repeat the same mistake Pirates made with Al Ahly three years ago by thinking that they will easily stroll past Zamalek.

 

Yes, Sundowns know what to expect from Zamelek, but they should never forget that they will be coming up against a team that knows what it takes to win continental titles.

Mosimane’s biggest challenge, apart from getting his tactics right on the day, is to get his play in the right frame of mind and ensure that they guard against complacency.         

Keep a clean sheet at home

Away goals have in the past swung the pendulum in the visiting teams' favour, and at least Sundowns can attest to that, having recently seen them help them beat Zesco United in the semi-finals.

Permutations are clear that even a team that loses 2-1 away from home, need to win 1-0 at home to progress on the away-goal rule.

In all the continental finals both Sundowns and Pirates were involved in, the first legs were played in South Africa, and it’s time PSL teams used that to their advantage by making sure they don’t give anything away going into the return leg.

In 2001, Sundowns drew 1-1 with Al Ahly at home, but lost away from home, and Pirates fell into the same trap in 2013, and they also never came back from Cairo. A lesson learned from this is that home teams should strive to keep that important clean sheet and try and get an away goal in the return leg to be on the safer side.