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Mokwena lavishes Sundowns with praise after winning AFL

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Mamelodi Sundowns celebrate after winning the AFL title. PHOTO/Sundowns/Twitter
Mamelodi Sundowns celebrate after winning the AFL title. PHOTO/Sundowns/Twitter
  • Sundowns beat Wydad Athletic 3-2 on aggregate
  • They won the second leg 2-0 in Pretoria
  • Sundowns clinched USD4mn as prize money

Mamelodi Sundowns head coach Rulani Mokwena was full of praise for his side’s performance and resilience as they edged out Morocco’s Wydad Club Athletic 2-0 in Pretoria and 3-2 on aggregate to clinch the inaugural title of the African Football League (AFL).

Sundowns had trailed 2-1 from the first leg played in Casablanca last weekend, but they rallied with magnificent home support to win 2-0 at home and clinch the title that carried with it a USD4mn prize.

“I run out of words when I have to speak about our group of players. I thank God for this opportunity to lead this club and be part of this magnificent group and to be their coach because these players have backed me,” Mokwena said after the match.

He added; “I pushed them so hard, we work really hard and they make so many sacrifices. I want to thank them and their families who don’t get to spend a lot of time with them.”

“When we lost 2-1 in Casablanca, we had a training session the next day with a couple of players that didn’t play and I can tell you, we trained like a team that had just lost 5-0. The mentality of the likes of Rushine de Rueck, Dennis Onyango and Neo Maema in that training session was just unbelievable. This is what makes this group so special, their sense of brotherhood, loyalty and commitment to this badge. Don’t worry, there will be no sense of complacency, I will not allow it.”

Peter Shalulile, returning to the team after weeks out with injury scored the first goal in first half stoppage time, while Aubrey Modiba added the second in the second half to seal the title into their hands.

Second continental title for Sundowns 

It is the second Continental title for Sundowns, having won the CAF Champions League in 2016, and for Mokwena, it is his first ever continental triumph as coach. In 2016, he was Pitso Mosimane’s assistant as they won the CL and now, the 36 year old tactician has conquered the Continent.

It was never an easy outing for Masandawana against a Wydad side that only needed to avoid defeat to win the title.

The first half was cagy, Wydad playing with a low, compact block, denying Sundowns the spaces to play their usual incisive defense splitting passes.

But all through, backed by a capacity crowd at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium, the Brazilians kept their patience and composure.

They were finally rewarded in the third minute of added time when Shalulile pounced on a rebound after the keeper had spilled a long range shot from Teboho Mokoena. The Namibian forward showed his class, being the first on the spills before clipping the ball over the keeper.

In the second half, the home side were off to a fast paced start and they needed just eight minutes to double their cushion.

A sideways pass in midfield from Wydad was intercepted by Mokoena who raced into the box before chipping over the advancing keeper.

Wayward passes by Wydad 

It was the second time that Wydad’s passes in their own final third were being intercepted as just minutes before the goal, Shalulile had run blind side of a defender to pick a backpass, but he had a heavy first touch allowing the keeper to pluck it off his feet.

After going 2-0 down, Wydad had to open up the game as they knew one goal would send the game to penalties while two would win it for them, just like they did in the Champions League semi-finals last season.

However, Sundowns were not ready to let lightning strike them twice as they kept possession, stuck to their shape and were careful with their passing.

They managed to hold on till the final whistle, with the entire stadium erupting in frenzy as they celebrated the massive win and the trophy.

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