JOHANNESBURG – Mamelodi Sundowns bounced back from the disappointment of surrendering the domestic Absa Premiership a week ago to grab maximum points in the lion’s den – away from home in their CAF Champions League Group C clash against AS Vita Club.
The Brazilians had also suffered the set back of only managing a goalless draw in their opening group stages fixture when they shared the spoils with Ethiopia’s Saint George at the Lucas Moripe Stadium.
But on Wednesday night coach Pitso Mosimane’s men were clinical, bullying Vita in their own backyard to win 3-1 in Kinshasa.
Anthony Laffor, Yannick Zakri and Sibusiso Vilakazi got the important goals, while Oumar Sidibe struck the solitary goal for the home side.
Such is the rivalry between Vita and another Democratic Republic of Congo in AS Veti Club that a fraction of the supporters at the stadium last night were backing Sundowns to come away with a positive result – and they did so in fine fashion.
What made the victory, the first for the Brazilians in their group, even sweeter was the fact that they did so without some of their key players.
Khama Billiat and Hlompho Kekana didn’t not make the starting line-up due to injuries, although the latter was on the bench having gone for a late fitness test hours before kick-off.
At the back, Sundowns also had to rely on young Motjeka Madisha and Thabo Nthethe, who has been down the pecking order at rearguard for several weeks now until Mosimane had nobody else left with injuries to Wayne Arendse, Ricardo Nascimento and Soumahoro Bangaly.
The Brazilians gained confidence early on when Zakri’s burst of pace troubled the Vita defence, getting past a few only to be denied by the goalkeeper. And then in the 24th minute, Laffor opened the scoring with a diving header, connecting brilliantly with a beautiful cross from Tebogo Langerman.
Zakri also missed a chance to put Sundowns 2-0 ahead on the stroke of half-time when he again danced past two defenders but saw his attempt come off the crossbar.
But he finally made amends when he put the ball in the back of the net later in the second half, before Vilakazi wrapped it all up with a third.
It’s some victory for Sundowns, who flagged this match as a grudge match given the history between the two clubs. They took Vita’s place in the Champions League last year after the Congolese side were disqualified for fielding an ineligible player.