Throughout the build-up to the inaugural edition of the TotalEnergies CAF Women’s Champions League in Egypt, Coach Jerry Tshabalala continually stated that his Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies side were not just in the ‘Land of the Pharaohs’ to make up the numbers but to stamp their authority and etch their names into the record books. Coach Tshabalala’s statements were duly echoed by Captain Zanele Nhlapho on the eve of the tournament and the feeling within the camp was incredible as the tournament began.
As Coach Tshabalala’s eleven gladiators stepped onto the pitch against Kenyan side Vihiga Queens in their opening game, many dreams were accomplished in the hearts of his young side as soon as Shahenda El Maghrabi blew the whistle to get the game underway. But there was a burning desire to ‘conquer the continent’ which rippled through the hearts of The Brazilians from the get-go. What followed was a ‘moment of sheer class’ in the fourth minute with Melinda Kgadiete finishing off a fine team build-up play from the base of the midfield. Although Banyana Ba Style failed to add to their tally for the remainder of the game, they showed their defensive robustness to clinch all three points.
As Sundowns Ladies prepare to face Nigeria’s Rivers Angels on Tuesday evening, Kgadiete believes the team must replicate the goal-scoring ruthlessness that the Chloorkop side is often lauded for.
“The game was not an easy one because we made it difficult for ourselves by not scoring the chances that we created. We had glorious opportunities that could have enabled us to wrap up the game in the first half. Nevertheless, there are various positives to take away from the game. We created several chances and that showed our ability to be inventive and creative when the opposition deploys a deep-lying block. We also showed our ability to adapt because they flipped their tactics in the second half and went on the attack. Despite that tactical switch, we were able to successfully come through unscathed. We need to be more ruthless against our next opponents.” stated Kgadiete.
Coach Tshabalala believes the Angels will be keen to respond emphatically after their 3-0 hammering at the hands of Morocco’s ASFAR in their opener.
“The game against Rivers Angels will be a very tough one for us. We have studied them quite well and they are a very strong and physical side. After losing their opener, they will be keen to get their campaign back on track. Therefore, we have to be cautious in the way we approach this game. If we are to become the Champions of Africa, these are the games we have to win. We are ready for the challenge because this is one of the biggest games of our lives,” Coach Tshabalala stated.
The Rivers-based club is the Nigerian Women’s Premier League defending champions and Captain Nhlapho who marshals the Sundowns defence is anticipating a tough fixture.
“They are a very solid unit and a well-structured side. They have good movements and transitions with and without the ball. As a team, we need to ensure that our ball distribution abilities are spot on against them. The coaching team has constantly stressed the need for patience when we are facing sides with a deep-lying defensive setup. We are also looking to be more ruthless with our finishing because that is the only way to seal the victory. It’s not going to be an easy battle, but we are confident of our chances,” stated the defender.
Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies will battle it out against Nigeria’s Rivers Angels at the El Salam Stadium in Cairo on Tuesday. The kick-off time for the fixture is 19h00.