Sundowns Confirm Knockout Stage Qualification10/Jul/2017 06:02
Mamelodi Sundowns were under no pressure when they took on Democratic Republic of Congo side AS Vita in their final Group C Confederation of African Football Champions League fixture at the Lucas Moripe Stadium as they had already qualified for the quarter finals of the African showpiece.
And it showed as they displayed some scintillating carpet football but in the end settled for a 1-1 draw.
Coach Pitso Mosimane gave some key players, including captain Hlompho Kekana, some rest following a grueling season. And Asavela Mbekile , Kennedy Mweene and Fares Hachi were given a start, and the two infield players brought a new attack dimension to the defending African champions.
What could have been a classic display of attacking football from both sides was marred by some rough tackling, with the visitors recording a total of 22 fouls, but only two yellow cards being flashed by the referee.
Players who had to pick themselves up following these fouls were Yannick Zakri, Thapelo Morena, Hachi, Percy Tau and Motjeka Madisha, with Sibusiso Vilakazi being clipped from behind in the box. Mbekile eventually had to be replaced after battling through into the second half.
The Brazilians had an early chance as Vilakazi put through Tau, but the Vita goalie made a critical clearance for a corner.
Soon thereafter it was Hachi who made a run from the flank, and in the seventh minute Anthony Laffor and Zakri played some inter passing, and Laffor put through the striker who was adjudged offside.
Tau shot for goal through a whole cluster of defenders but the Vita goalie was alert.
Vita came to life briefly and, and from a corner kick, Mweene was forced to make a diving save, one of the rare occasions he was called into action.
Sundowns were piling on the pressure, and from a clearance by the Vita goalie, Morena played through stand in captain Thabo Nthete, who calmly put the ball into the back of the net after beating the off side trap.
The African champions played a deep passing game, hoping to lure the visitors out of their defensive positions, with the play being concentrated in the Sundowns half and Vita sitting back.
Zakri had a chance in the 37th, and Vilakazi showed dome neat skills to turn the Vita defence just after the half time break.
Vilakazi then broke down the flank and onto the byline before cutting the ball across into the six box. A Vita defender just managed to get a touch to put the ball beyond the reach of Zakri.
Tau had another chance in the 52nd minute, and eight minutes later Laffor and Zakri turned on the magic, but once more it was the goalie who thwarted the Tshwane Giants.
The pace Sundowns showed with Zakri, Mbekile, Morena and Tau running at the visitors was telling, and often frustrated the visitors into late tackles.
Soumahoro launched a rare attack on the flank and laid on for Vilakazi, but he was clipped and appeals for a penalty were waved away.
The visitors then came back into attacks one more, and Mweene was forced to tip the ball over the bar from a long range shot. Another effort just shaved the cross bar.
Hachi then got an opportunity as he raced through, but his teeing of the ball was too strong.
Laffor was then caught on the thigh with a high tackle, and the Liberian was kept quiet as his mobility seemed to have been affected. He was eventually replaced by Leonardo Castro, who almost hot a goal with his first touch.
From a throw in, headers by Morena and Soumahoro fell for a Vita forward who volleyed first time, beating Mweene who seemed to have been unsighted. The goal spurred the visitors to a new level of energy.
Sundowns were given a new scare when Soumahoro went down following a twisting attempt at goal, but returned to soldier on.
Lucky Mohomi came on for Mbekile.
On the stroke of 90 minutes Soumahoro tried a long range drive which the goalie parried before collecting St the second attempt .
The Tshwane side joined Tunisian side Esperance, who ended top of the group log following a pasting of St George 4-0 at home, in the quarter final knock out stage.
Starting line up:
Kennedy Mweene, Thapelo Morena, Fares Hachi, Motjeka Madisha, Thabo Nthete, Soumahoro Bangaly, Anthony Laffor (Leonardo Castro), Sibusiso Vilakazi, Yannick Zakri , Asavele Mbekile ( Lucky Mohomi), Percy Tau.