The 34-year-old tactician explained how the Blue Wave made things difficult for Masandawana in Omdurman
Mamelodi Sundowns co-coach Rhulani Mokwena was satisfied with the team’s performance against Al Hilal on Friday afternoon and he was full of praise for Ricardo Formosinho.
The two teams played out a 0-0 draw in their penultimate Caf Champions League Group B match at Al-Hilal Stadium in Sudan with Sundowns having already qualified for the quarter-finals.
Mokwena lauded Al Hilal’s newly appointed head coach Formosinho, who worked with world-renowned Portuguese manager Jose Mourinho at Premier League clubs Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur until 2020.
“It is fantastic that Africa can recruit coaches of his calibre with his technical staff – huge experience [with] lots of quality and [having] worked at the highest level,” Mokwena told the media.
“So, we knew that from watching videos and getting data that the team has improved a lot within the three weeks. It is not always easy to give a team your footprint as a coach particularly within the short period of time that he has done it.
“But clearly when we did analysis you could always see that there is a game model, there is a way of playing. Even data or numbers supported what we saw because ever since he arrived the possession statistics of the team have gone up on average to 63 per cent compared to what was 46 per cent, so that was huge.”
Sundowns fielded a second-string team and their defence was kept busy by Sudan international Mohamed Abdelrahman, who had a few goalscoring opportunities.
“So, we knew we had to play very strong when we don’t have possession of the ball, we had to work a bit and keep compact and deny them spaces behind us,” Mokwena continued.
“Maybe in certain moments in the first-half we dropped off too early and it was easy for them particularly for Rahman [Abdelrahman] to find possibilities to get into our box.
“Also because we struggled a little bit to deal with the diamond in the midfield because that also caught us slightly by surprise, although they have played it before. But much better in the second-half where we induced a bit of pressure.”
Masandawana were the better side in the second half and they came close to scoring through Haashim Domingo and Hlompho Kekana.
“We pressed a little bit higher. We had complications with the wind because they couldn’t come out. But [Mohamed] Ouattara and Mohamed [Saeed] Ahmed are very good on the ball,” Mokwena added.
“It was a little bit easy for them to find diagonals and possibilities to find spaces behind us. But we dealt with that very well. We are satisfied with the result.
“Once more congratulations to coach Ricardo and his technical team. Huge improvement to what we played against [in the first-leg with Sundowns beating Al Hilal 2-0 in Pretoria].”
Sundowns will face Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila in a PSL game on April 6, before wrapping up their Group B campaign against Algeria’s CR Belouizdad on April 9.