Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies began their Total Energies CAF Women’s Champions League campaign with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Kenyan side Vihiga Queens in their Group B encounter at the Al-Salam Stadium in Cairo on Saturday.
Having received warm pre-tournament wishes from the Chairman of the Club, Tlhopie Motsepe, as well as the Board, Management, First Team Coaches and the Masandawana family in entirety, Banyana Ba Style was in high spirits as they took to the pitch against their highly fancied East African opponents.
The first few minutes of the game saw The Brazilians display fluidity, smoothness and composure and it was no surprise that the South African side grabbed the lead in the opening five minutes thanks to the predatory instinct of Melinda Kgadiete. The striker lashed on to a wonderfully weighted pass and conjured up a sumptuous chip over the goalkeeper. Kgadiete’s strike was the first goal scored in the Group B rubber.
The Kenyans upped their momentum after the early setback and launched several attacks of their own a few minutes after conceding, but the Sundowns defence weathered the storms impressively as the game sprang to life. Banyana Ba Style duly responded with their foray of attacks for the remainder of the first half but the Queens maintained their defensive structure to prevent a second.
After the restart, the Kenyan outfit switched their game plan to a more attacking outlook but goalkeeper Asa Rabalao showed her class between the sticks midway through the second half. Both sides continued to chase the all-important second goal with both defences proving equal to the task. The Queens almost grabbed the equalizer with the last kick of the game from a freekick but were denied at the death by the woodwork.
Speaking after the match, Coach Jerry Tshabalala underscored the importance of starting the tournament with a victory.
“It is very important for any team to begin a tournament such as this with a win. Such victory improves the confidence of the players as well as the energy levels within the team. Our opponents showed their defensive solidity but we showed our attacking abilities by scoring an important goal. The win means we are one foot into the semi-finals but we are not dwelling on this victory. We are already looking forward to the next game against Rivers Angels.” stated Coach Tshabalala.
Queens’ goalkeeper Lilian Awuor was named ‘Woman of the Match’ thanks to her outstanding reflexes to prevent The Brazilians from adding to their advantage. Coach Tshabalala believes his side would need to improve their ruthlessness moving forward.
“We must praise the opposition for the defensive block they deployed. But I believe we should have punished them a couple of times in the first 20 minutes of the game because we had very good goal-scoring opportunities to bury the game and extend our advantage. It is no surprise that their goalkeeper was named the top player of the game. Nevertheless, this is a tough group and I am very happy with my charges,” concluded the highly experienced coach.
In the other Group B game, Sanaa Mssoudy scored the tournament’s first-ever hat-trick as Morocco’s ASFAR hammered Nigeria’s Rivers Angels by 3-0.
Up next for Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies is a massive clash against the Nigerian outfit on Tuesday.