Mamelodi Sundowns too good for TP Mazembe in the DRC
CAPE TOWN – Mamelodi Sundowns roared a championship challenge with a dramatic 2-1 victory over five-time CAF Champions League winners TP Mazembe in the Democratic Republic of Congo, on Saturday afternoon.
Just when it seemed that hosts Mazembe had done enough to secure a share of the spoils, Sundowns' lethal dead-ball specialist Lyle Lakay stepped up to score from a free-kick that dipped in just below the crossbar.
The matchwinning fightback from a 1-all stalemate emphasised the Sundowns claims as champions in the making. After this win, Sundowns have three wins from as many games in the Champions League Group B competition.
Mazembe marked closely at the start and did not allow Sundowns any time on the ball. Sundowns were left with no margin for errors, and Mazembe pounced on anything wayward.
Sundowns' Ugandan goalkeeper Denis Onyango was by far the busiest of the two shot-stoppers. He was called into early action to smother a long-range shot from Mzembe defender Chico Ushindi in the 13t minute.
The Cameroonian referee Sidi Alioum allowed for a fair amount of physicality from the home side's players, but Sundowns held their composure and secured the major share of possession.
As the first half wore on the match retained a fast pace although the playing patterns were contrasting. Mazembe played long passes when building up movements in the opposition half. The ploy nearly paid off after defender Issama Mpeko stalked into the firing line following a fine run down the right flank. His parting shot was fractionally wide of the upright.
Sundowns, on the other hand, used a crisp inter-passing game, mostly down the centre of the field, to launch their attacking sorties.
The highlight of the first half was a scoring attempt by Sundowns striker Themba Zwane who struck the upright in the 38th minute when Mazembe's Malian goalkeeper Ibrahim Mounkoro was well beaten – but he had the last say when he gathered the ball after it appeared to have spilt off the upright and over the goal line.
Ref Alioum did not award a goal, and his supporting assistant, who was directly in line with the goal line did not gesture that it could have been a goal. The replays of online streaming showed the ball had crossed the goal line.
On either side of the halfway mark, the team had close-in free-kicks, but they failed to capitalise on the set-pieces.
Three minutes from the halftime break, Mazembe playmaker Rainford Kalaba had a low shot on target but Onyango parried the effort clear.
Just when it looked like Mazembe's persistence and endeavour would be rewarded Onyango again rose to the occasion to deny striker Moustapha Kouyaté on the stroke of halftime.
Mazembe made all the early second-half running but they failed to crack the Sundowns defence with Onyango standing like the proverbial Rock of Gibraltar between the Sundowns sticks.
Sundowns stepped up their attacking thrust by calling on substitute Kermit Erasmus who has been producing a few cameos whenever he joined the fray in the second half. Four minutes after his arrival, Sundowns made a breakthrough.
Sundown's leading scorer Namibian Peter Shalulile finally cracked the opposition defence in the 66th minute after a fine feed by Zwane (1-0).
Mazembe staged a fightback, but Onyango held on to a stinging low drive from Mpeko to keep his side's lead intact. Shortly afterwards, he went down after a collision, but he recovered after receiving treatment.
However, Onyango was finally beaten eight minutes from the end when the 35-year-old substitute Trésor Mputu grabbed the equaliser.
But Sundowns regained the lead when defender Lyle Lakay produced one of his trademark free-kicks which stunned the opposition on the stroke of regulation time.