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By Katlego Modiba

Football Journalist

Mokwena takes blame for Sundowns’ Champions League slip-up

'It's my job to make the players understand how important it is to qualify for the knockout phase,' Mokwena said.

Rulani Mokwena has shouldered the blame for Mamelodi Sundowns’ indifferent form in the CAF Champions League following the frustrating goalless draw at home to Pyramids FC on Sunday.

It was the second game in a row that Mokwena’s team failed to find the back of the net in the continental competition after going down 1-0 to DRC giants TP Mazembe a week ago.

The Brazilians have blown everyone away in the DStv Premiership but have not been as ruthless in Africa’s premeir club competition where the standard is a lot higher.

“It’s my job to make the players understand how important it is to qualify for the knockout phase,” Mokwena said after the draw against the Egyptian club at Loftus Versfeld.

“When I don’t get that desire, it’s not necessarily about the performance of the players. It’s the volume of games we are playing, so if the message doesn’t get through to the players then I have to look at myself first, to say ‘did deliver the message properly’.

“I think maybe I didn’t deliver the message well enough for the players to understand how important it was to win today’s game, but it’s time recover because we have an important game in midweek.”

Sundowns will play at home to Cape Town Spurs in the DStv Premiership on Wednesday.

The Champions League comes in the middle of a hectic period for the newly-crowned African Football League champions. Masandawana have astonishingly played five matches in the last two weeks switching between the domestic league and their travels on the continent.

‘These games are not easy’

“We have to move and try to understand that we have two difficult away matches. We will fortunately finish the group stage with matches at home and by that time we will know what to do,” Mokwena said.

“These games are not easy … and I do feel sorry for my players because it’s a very difficult month. There’s so many games and everybody wants to beat us. Everyone feels that we have to play at a certain level without understanding how difficult it is to keep going where every three days you’re in camp and you’re traveling too.

“It’s that kind of a programme and you have to carry on with it. Like I always say, heavy is the head that carries the crown and we are carrying the crown right now. Everyone wants to say that they are the first team to beat Sundowns (in the Premiership) and that’s the responsibility and burden that we carry at the moment.”

All teams are on the same number of points after three rounds of matches in group A after FC Nouadhibou and TP Mazembe also played to goalless draw in Mauritania on Saturday.

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