Sundowns hope South African 'Iniesta' can secure final place

Themba Zwane (Gallo Images)
Themba Zwane (Gallo Images)

Johannesburg - Mamelodi Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane has likened star winger Themba Zwane to Spanish great Andres Iniesta and hopes he can help clinch a CAF Champions League final place this Saturday.

Masandawana trail frequent rivals Wydad Casablanca 2-1 going into the semi-final second leg near Pretoria and Zwane knows how to unlock the Moroccan defence.

He bagged a brace when Sundowns defeated Wydad 2-1 in the group stage last January and has notched six Champions League goals this season, one less than the chart-topper.

"Themba is not an orthodox winger who sprints down the touchline and crosses the ball. We allow him to operate wherever he wants to. He reminds me of Iniesta," said Mosimane.

Iniesta starred as a midfielder for Barcelona and scored the goal that won Spain the World Cup for the only time nine years ago in South Africa. Aged 34, he now plays in Japan.

Here, AFP Sport previews the second legs with trophy-holders Esperance of Tunisia clinging to a 1-0 lead over TP Mazembe from the Democratic Republic of Congo in the other tie.

Mazembe v Esperance

A sell-out 20 000 crowd in Lubumbashi is likely to see a very different Mazembe side from that which lost to a Youcef Belaili cross-cum-goal in Rades last weekend.

The five-time African champions from mineral-rich southern Congo did not have a single goal attempt on target as they concentrated on containing the hosts.

They also had to play with 10 men for 18 minutes because Zambian centre-back Kabaso Chongo was red-carded after two cautions, a punishment that rules him out of the return match.

Mazembe must score at least once at home and veteran Tresor Mputu and young Jackson Muleka could be the men to breach the Esperance defence.

Both have scored five goals in the CAF campaign so there is not doubting their ability as they try to pick holes in a rearguard marshalled by Esperance captain Khalil Chemmam.

The Tunisian outfit, whose last two visits to Lubumbashi ended in a 0-0 draw and 5-0 drubbing, will believe that one away goal could be enough to see them into the final.

Sundowns v Wydad

There are no secrets between Sundowns and Wydad as they have met seven times in three seasons with six matches settled by one-goal margins and the other drawn.

Sundowns scored in Rabat last Friday, meaning a 1-0 victory in Atteridgeville will suffice, but Mosimane admits that preventing Wydad scoring will not be easy.

"I doubt they will sit back and try to force a goalless draw. Wydad can score in away games and we have to find a way of keeping them quiet."

A blow to the Moroccans is the absence of suspended Mohammed Nahiri, a left-back but the leading scorer for the Casablanca club in Africa this season with five goals.

Sundowns consider crowd support a key factor as they try to replicate the atmosphere that helped humiliate record eight-time champions Al Ahly of Egypt 5-0 in the quarter-finals.

To ensure a big crowd in the 30 000-seat stadium, supporters wearing yellow, the shirt colour of Sundowns, will be admitted free.

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