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By Katlego Modiba

Football Journalist

Mokwena positive of reaching Champions League semis

"We struggled a little bit with gaining control of the game," says Mokwena.

Mamelodi Sundowns coach Rulani Mokwena remains upbeat of qualifying for the Caf Champions League semifinals despite the goalless draw away to Young Africans on Saturday.

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The Brazilians who have set high standards this season looked a shadow of themselves at the Benjamin Mkapa Stadium in Dar es Salaam.

They will have to be better in the second leg, which is scheduled for Friday at Loftus Versfeld with the winner set to reach the last four of Africa’s premier club competition.

“We struggled a little bit with gaining control of the game. We lacked a little bit of compactness and couldn’t really get our foot on the ball to play with a bit more control and dominate the game,” Mokwena reflected.

“We lost too many duels and too many second balls. We had to address that at half time. We looked a little bit better in the second half because I think we played a with a little bit more intensity and we tried to go forward but we played against a good team.

“We knew it was going to be difficult regardless of whatever was going to be the scoreline here. We knew that were were going to have to win in Pretoria and that still remains the same.”

Mokwena admits that they missed inspirational captain Themba Zwane who was suspended for the game in Tanzania after picking up three yellow cards in the group stages. The evergreen 34-year-old will be available for the return match in what is now a must-win match for Masandawana.

“He’s the captain of the team. He’s an important part of the team and of course we missed him a little bit today but everyone tried and I’m happy with the commitment and effort especially in the second half,” he said.

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“So let’s build on that because it’s not easy coming from a FIFA break. We can play better and use the ball better. Even if we had won, I would still say to you that it is halftime and we have to play better in the second leg and try to win the game.

“I’m sure that we will see Sundowns in the next round. I’m very confident about that but the plan is to recover and prepare for Richards Bay.”

The DStv Premiership defending champions will first host Richards Bay in Tuesday’s league game at Loftus before playing Yanga three days later.

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