Dominant Sundowns send Mazembe packing

IBRAHIMA Keita of TP Mazembe clears the ball away from Peter Shalulile of Mamelodi Sundowns during the 2023/24 CAF Champions League group match. | BackpagePix

IBRAHIMA Keita of TP Mazembe clears the ball away from Peter Shalulile of Mamelodi Sundowns during the 2023/24 CAF Champions League group match. | BackpagePix

Published Mar 2, 2024


MAMELODI Sundowns closed out their CAF Champions League Group A campaign with a workmanlike 1-0 victory that seldom stirred the blood at the Lucas Moripe Stadium in Atteridgeville yesterday afternoon.

The slender 1-0 win over TP Mazembe means that Sundowns have finished as Group A winners and will play one of the runners-up from the other groups, rather than one of the Champions League’s ‘Big Guns’.

It was the first goal that the visiting TP Mazembe had conceded in four Champions League matches.

TP Mazembe, with 10 points, finished Group A runners-up, behind Masandawana, South Africa’s all-conquering side, with 13 points. Before this clash, both clubs had already booked quarter-final places but were bidding to conclude this Group A campaign as Group A winners.

A few minutes after kick-off it became apparent that the Congolese heavyweights looked unlikely to disturb Sundowns’ equilibrium. Most of Sundowns’ attacking sorties were launched down the left flank and TP Mazembe coach Lamine Ndiaye would have been pleased with the way his charges were absorbing the early pressure.

After 20 minutes, the statistics showed that the Congolese had committed seven fouls and that pointed to the disarray in their ranks. They had not managed a single shot on target and despite occasional impressive second-half spells, they finished the match that way too.

The frequent fouls summed up the spoiler tactics TP Mazembe had adopted and, for a while, it was working for them since Sundowns’ overwhelming possession advantage did not make an impact on the scoresheet initially.

After Sundowns rounded the opposition defence wide out on the left, they managed a low goal-mouth cross in the 22nd minute but the ball rolled harmlessly past the TP Mazembe defence with no Sundowns player to capitalise on the scoring opportunity.

Brazilian Lucas Costa, Sundown’s hat-trick hero in a midweek match, entered the match in a rich vein of form and he commanded great attention from the opposition defence from the outset.

He was fielded out wide on the left in Sundowns’ three-man attack, but he was playing the role of linkman with great effect. He constantly moved into open spaces and that allowed him to hang onto the feeds from his midfield.

In the 35th minute, he intervened with great authority and TP Mazembe captain Kévin Mondeko was at pains to halt his sortie into the penalty area. Costa looked like he had wormed his way past Mondeko yet again, but this time the latter brought him down with a foul.

Moroccan referee Jalal Jayed had no alternative but to point to the ‘spot’ for the obvious foul and Namibian Peter Shalulile slotted home after sending TP Mazembe’s Senegalese goalkeeper Alioune Faty the wrong way. Faty was a stand-out player at the recent Afcon.

As it turned out, this was the only goal of the match, although both teams had scoring chances in the second stanza.

It was another clean sheet for the Sundowns’ defence, whose efficiency tends to be overshadowed by the proficiency of their strike force.

After the match Sundowns coach Rhulani Mokwena said he was pleased that his side had held out for the win.

“It wasn’t easy because TP Mazembe plays a very good game. This is a very strong team, and we were prepared for their physicality,” said Mokwena.

Ndiaye said his team had scoring chances to equalise and even win the match. His demeanour at the post-match pitchside interview suggested defeat was a bitter pill for him to swallow.

“We had chances to equalise and even the match. I don’t know what it was, but many of our players were not in form today,” said Ndiaye.