They looked ready, after being eliminated in the first round by African giants TP Mazembe last year - getting past Chicken Inn and AC Leopards - but Mazembe’s rivals, AS Vita, proved a bigger hurdle in the second round.
Now they have to pick themselves up in the CAF Confederation Cup, compete there so as to go back to the Champions League stronger next year and return as league champions.
Things they did right in the Champions League:
A good home record
The key to succeeding on the continent is to win your home games. Do that well and half the job is done. Do that convincingly and you are destined to be champions.
That’s how teams like Al-Ahly and Mazembe have won numerous continental titles.
Mosimane knew that more than most, having spent five years with Bafana Bafana and three years with SuperSport United competing on the continent where they went as far as the group stage in 2004. Sundowns didn’t just beat Chicken Inn, AC Leopards and AS Vita at Lucas Moripe Stadium but scored two goals in each match.
The strongest indication that Sundowns were ready to fight it out against the big boys on the continent is how they weathered the trip to Dolisie to take on Leopards. After arriving in Congo-Brazzaville, they had to take a five-hour bus ride on a mountainous route. The person who had to bring them food when they arrived there didn’t pitch, which saw them fuel on junk food - then playing on a cabbage-patch of a pitch and got the result.
As they were ready to return home, there was a delay. Flights were grounded because of the elections which meant that they had to spend two more days there. Not once did they complain, even though that delay saw assistant coach Rhulani Mokoena miss an opportunity to go to England for a coaching workshop led by Jurgen Klopp.
Things they did wrong:
Not taking their chances on the road
In all of Sundowns’ trips in the Champions League, there were a number of moments that saw them have their opponents against the ropes but they failed to land a killer blow.
They failed to win a single match on the road, losing twice yet there isn’t a single match where they were outplayed. They held their own against AS Vita, creating two golden chances that Leonardo Castro and Themba Zwane failed to convert. If they had scored one of those chances, they would have returned with a golden away goal. The Brazilians scored once in three away games.
Getting riled by referees
The disappointment in Sundowns’ players was all over their faces as they left the pitch after being eliminated by Vita at home. One player shook journalists’ hands waiting in the tunnel for interviews still angry, saying every time they complained about the Vita keeper wasting time the referee and his assistants would just speak French. But he said something interesting as he left for the change-room: “Then again we should have taken our chances.” Sundowns created enough chances to beat Vita convincingly but they didn’t.
Instead, they got desperate and were riled by small incidents and officiating. By fighting with the referee they moved from competing with Vita to battling the officials - a fight they could never win. - Saturday Star
Original source: Some lessons for Sundowns to learn