Home Sport As expected … Sundowns reach Champions League last 16 yet again

As expected … Sundowns reach Champions League last 16 yet again

184

The question after the Brazilians booked their ticket into the quarter-finals via a 2-0 victory over Mauritania’s Nouadhibou in Nouakchott is whether Rulani Mokwena’s men have what it takes to go all the way and win the club a second Champions League title.

Grant Kekana of Mamelodi Sundowns. File Picture: Samuel Shivambu, BackpagePix

Matshelane Mamabolo

ANOTHER Caf African Champions League campaign and yet another progression from the group phase for Mamelodi Sundowns.

Sundowns reaching the knockouts of Africa’s premier club competition is now par for the course.

The question after the Brazilians booked their ticket into the quarter-finals via a 2-0 victory over Mauritania’s Nouadhibou in Nouakchott is whether Rulani Mokwena’s men have what it takes to go all the way and win the club a second title to add to the one delivered to Chloorkop by Pitso Mosimane’s Class of 2016.

On the strength of their securing a knockout phase spot with a match still to play in the round-robin phase, there is reason to believe they can.

Many, though, would rather wait to see how the men in yellow and royal blue fare in their final group match at home against a TP Mazembe side that beat them 1-0 in the first round.

The DR Congo outfit were resounding 3-0 winners over Pyramids on Saturday and top the group on the same number of points (10) as Sundowns but enjoy a head-to-head advantage.

The South Africans have the opportunity to usurp the five-time African champions and win the group via victory at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

To do that, Mokwena will have to get his team to be their clinical best. For while they hardly raised a sweat in dispatching of the group’s whipping boys, Sundowns could have won by a much wider margin had they taken their scoring boots with them.

That they won the match courtesy of a goal scored by defender Grant Kekana following a dead-ball situation plus the last-minute strike by Champions League debutant and substitute Thembinkosi Lorch tells the story of how the usually potent forwards were off-colour at the Stade Cheikha Boidiy in the Mauritanian capital.

Kekana toe-poked the ball home as he connected a free kick from the left side of the field by Marcelo Allende after Gaston Sirino was clipped from behind.

Thereafter, Sundowns could have twice sent Nouadhibou goalkeeper Mamodou Mbodj scooping the ball from inside his net but the usually clinical Brazilians inexplicably fluffed their lines in the final third.

Just after the half-hour mark, Teboho Mokoena scuffed the ball wide of goal from inside the six-yard box following a good low cross from skipper Themba Zwane.

Five minutes before half-time they failed to capitalise after Mbodj gifted the ball away just outside his box, with Mokoena’s attempt headed away. The loose ball fell for Peter Shalulile, who somehow managed to get the ball entangled between his feet.

Sundowns fashioned two good chances early in the second half but Mbodj redeemed himself with fantastic saves to deny both Allende and Aubrey Modiba. Ten minutes from time, substitute Lucas Ribeiro did find the net with a sweetly struck shot from just inside the box after the hosts dilly-dallied and lost possession.

But the assistant on the far side inexplicably ruled that the Brazilian was offside.

Ribeiro got a chance on 84 minutes but his diagonal grass-cutting shot was splendidly saved by Mbodj, who dived to his left to push the ball away from the advancing Lebo Maboe for a corner kick.

There was nothing he could do to stop Lorch as Sundowns reached the CAF Champions League quarter-finals for the sixth season in a row.

Previous articleAt least nine ANC supporters killed in bus crash
Next articleSuspected copper cable thief killed in mob justice attack