Sundowns Move Into Quarter Finals02/Jul/2017 01:37
It was win or bust for African Champions Mamelodi Sundowns, and the Tshwane giants delivered in devastating manner when they beat Ethiopian champions St George 1 – 0 at the Addis Ababa Stadium in Ethiopia to book a place in the quarter finals of the CAF Champions League.
Sundowns needed to win in this Group C clash to keep their title defence alive, as they took on a side that held them to a goalless draw in Atteridgeville in the reverse fixture.
Even if St George win their final game, they can only equal Sundowns’ eight points, but the Tshwane side would edge the Ethiopians on head-to-head and retain second spot behind Espereance, who were held to a 2 – 2 draw by AS Vita in the other group game.
St George came into the game determined to keep their fantastic home record, and the 30 000 fans who crammed into the stadium to support their side were well behind their team.
They attacked from all angles from the kick off, and were all over the African champions. They had clearly lost respect for the Brazilians from their encounter in Tshwane, and the Kings of Africa had to ensure that they did not concede.
And, within the first five minutes, Motjeka Madisha had been forced into a rushed clearance, but sliced the ball onto his own upright, almost handing the hosts the lead.
Buoyed by this effort, St George kept up the pressure, and the heavy,damp and bumpy pitch did not help the cause of Mamelodi Sundowns. This, and the fact that the home side strategy had been to play rough and tough, with Yannick Zakri and Percy Tau their main targets, made Sundowns play from the back foot. Onyango, too, was not spared as he was pushed and shoved in the air.
Anthony Laffor and Sibusiso Vilakazi, the more experienced players, were able to manage the difficult pitch and keep the two younger players on the attack.
Soon, the Tshwane side settled, and could control the ball better as they took the game to the home side, and they created several opportunities from the midfield.
Having survived the early scare the Brazilians calmed down the play and settled to their own brand of passing football. Tebogo Langerman and Laffor had efforts going over the bar, and Laffor particularly should have put his side ahead.
Sundowns had another scare when Anele Ngcongca was adjudged to have handled the ball in the box. Onyango showed just why he is the number one goalkeeper in Africa when he read the St George player’s shot and saved, denying the local side and silencing the massive crowd which had anticipated a goal.
Hlompho Kekana tested the Ugandan goalkeeper Robert Odongkara, a colleague of Onyango in the national side side.
The game swung from one side to the other, and the hosts showed why they have been such a threat in Group C.
From a goalless first half, Sundowns grew in confidence, and their attacks and attempts at goal exceeded those of their hosts who, in the end, only had three shots on target in the game. Sundowns continued to push for a goal.
Coach Pitso Mosimane pulled off Zakri and introduced the pacey Thapelo Morena, whose brief seemed to have been clear: run at them on the wing and get the ball into the box.
Morena did not disappoint. He made one such run, cut in to towards the eighteen box, and crossed the ball which went tantalisingly across the six box where Laffor was waiting unmarked. The Liberian shot first time, beating the St George goalkeeper to give his side a 1 – 0 lead.
The goal seemed too have rattled the home side, and the home crowd also went quiet. They were not used to this kind of pressure, and they were forced to come out of their shell and try attacks, but left themselves open as the Tshwane giants mounted waves of attacks.
Much of the game then concentrated in the middle of the park, as shots from range simply did not give the two sides much of a challenge. The St George goalie was almost caught flatfooted, and had to retrieve the ball from just on the line.
Mosimane then decided to close down shop, and brought on Thabo Nthete for Tau, and finally Fares Hachi for Laffor – all defensive players for attackers.
The Pretoria side held out, and at the end of it all, it ws aa deserved vitory for the visitors, setting them u for a quarter final berth.
Denis Onyango, Motjeka Madisha, Bangaly Soumahoro, Tebogo Langerman, Anele Ngcongca, ,Hlompho Kekana, Themba. Zwane, Sibusiso Vilakazi, Anthony Laffor (Fares Hachi 92′), Percy Tau ( Thabo Nthethe 87′), Yannick Zakri (Thapelo Morena 67′).
Bench: Keennedy Mweene, Asavele Mbekile, Lucky Mohomi, Siyanda. Zwane.