Sundowns overcome Jwaneng Galaxy in first leg of Caf Champions League qualifier
JOHANNSBURG – Mamelodi Sundowns took a step closer to qualifying for the group stage of Caf Champions League after comfortably defeating Jwaneng Galaxy 2-0 in the first leg of the second round of preliminary qualifiers at Lobatse Stadium on Tuesday afternoon.
Four years since their African triumph, Sundowns’ best run in the Champions League has been to the semi-finals. But with a slightly tweaked technical team, following the departure of coach Pitso Mosimane, Sundowns were tipped to dig deep.
Newly appointed co-coaches Rhulani Mokwena and Manqoba Mngqithi were Mosimane’s assistants, while senior coach Steve Komphela is new to the fray. But the trio appear to be equal to the task after winning their first game in the preliminary round away from home.
Sundowns’ three points against Galaxy meant that they’ll need at least a draw – in order to book their spot for the seventh successive time in the group stage – in the return leg. Add to the fact that the three coaches will be pleased that there’s eagerness to contribute all round from the players.
Mothobi Mvala loves debut goals. After scoring in his DStv Premiership debut against Golden Arrows over the weekend, he scored in his Champions League debut against Galaxy. The towering midfielder slotted home from close-range after being set-up by Lyle Lakay.
That's it from Lobatse Stadium, a crucial win away from home 💪— Mamelodi Sundowns FC (@Masandawana) December 22, 2020
Great football displayed and ending the year on a high 👆
Jwaneng Galaxy 0️⃣➖2️⃣ Mamelodi Sundowns (10' Mvala, 45' Shalulile) #Sundowns #DownsLive #TotalCAFCL pic.twitter.com/pVWfk5gD7z
From thereon, Sundowns should have easily doubled their advantage, Bangaly Soumahoro heading inches wide off goal after another delightful set-piece from Lakay.
Having congested fixtures means Sundowns have a chance to rotate their squad. For a great while, Soumahoro was out of the picture at Sundowns, making a late appearance against Arrows after two appearances in two seasons. But against Galaxy, he partnered captain Nascimento and Brian Onyango in defence.
But the Brazilians' defence was lucky not to be punished in the first half for numerous mistakes. Wingback Khuliso Mudau appeared to have fouled Thero Setsile inside the box but the referee waved play on – as Galaxy piled on the pressure.
It was, however, Nascimento that was most fortunate. The Sundowns’ captain failed to trap the ball in his own final third, letting it roll to a free and unmarked Dion Junior whose hard-low shot from close-range unfortunately rattled the upright.
The Brazilians, however, punished the home side for sloppy defending to double their advantage seconds into the second half. Striker Peter Shalulile capitalised on a mistake from the Galaxy defence before passing the ball into an empty net.
This was also a Champions League debut goal for the Namibian who was signed from Highlands Park at the end of last season. But with these signs of seamless adaptation overall, Shalulile has shown that he can be a top marksman in both continental and domestic football.
The Brazilians will take the Christmas break high on confidence after today’s result, while they are also summit of the local Premiership standings with 18 points, thanks to an unbeaten run of five wins and three draws in eight matches.
Meanwhile, Orlando Pirates also returned home with three points in their Confederation Cup preliminary qualifier after defeating Sagrada Esperanca through a late Thembinkosi Lorch goal at Estádio dos Coqueiros yesterday in coach Josef Zinnbauer’s first continental game in charge.