Mamelodi Sundowns scored a dramatic late goal to secure a rare away win over Al Ahly in Saturday night’s Café Champions League game.
The game – called African Derby because of the built-up anticipation – lived up to expectations.
Dramatic scenes abounded, in one of which Sundowns’ co-coach Rulani Mokwena was sent off after a verbal sparring with the referee. Manqoba Mngqithi has since explained what happened that led to this unexpected scene.
“Honestly, we weren’t fighting with the umpires as such,” Mngqithi said after the game. “But the referee assumed that our goalkeeper (Kennedy Mweene) was wasting time.
“The truth was there was a mistake made on him and we tried to clear the ball so that he could attract attention. But they didn’t let the ball out and continued to play when they could see the keeper was down. We didn’t pretend, we tried not to waste time, we hardly ever do.
“And that’s actually what prompted us to talk to try and make them conscientious that we’re not trying to waste time, but rather concerned that our goalkeeper got injured,” Mngqithi said.
However, he could not be dragged into comment about the level of umpires as he said they are people too and therefore fallible by nature.
“With the referees you never want to say whether you are happy with it or not. But the truth is that they are people too and sometimes make mistakes. We have to accept that they made mistakes and forgive them because it is the nature of the game of football … Today it could benefit you, tomorrow it could benefit someone else. They are people and we don’t want to kill that human factor in football.”
The three points Masandawana earned from Thapelo Morena’s 86th minute goal put them on solid ground in Group A.
They are now on seven points from three games. Hot on their heels are El Merreikh with four, while Al Ahly is third with just one.
Al Hihal is also fourth with one point in three games. However, Al Ahly and El Merreikh have a game on their hands.
Mngqithi believes they can go all out and claim their second Café Champions League title.
“Even last year we believed we had a team that could win it. We trained a team that we also knew had the capacity to win. And also Al Ahly has played a lot of matches and so we had to drag the game a bit and make sure they don’t get an early goat because we knew they would get tired in the later stages of the game and we could hurt them.
“That’s what we did. We anticipated what they might bring and we were confident that the team we have has the capacity because we were still not happy with what happened last. Even then we thought we should have won.”