Sundowns cruise into Caf Champions League group stages
Pretoria side advance with AmaZulu in Champions League after beating Congolese side AS Maniema Union
SA football is floating on a purple cloud of continental success after two domestic sides cruised into the all-important group stages of the Caf Champions League in swashbuckling fashion at the weekend.
A clinical Mamelodi Sundowns comfortably dispatched Congolese side AS Maniema Union 2-0 at Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria to advance to the group stages courtesy of a 4-2 aggregate win on Sunday and AmaZulu beat Congolese side TP Mazembe on Saturday to advance to the group stages.
It was always going to take something special for Maniema to stop the 2016 Champions League winners from progressing to the next phase of the continental showpiece as the Democratic Republic of the Congo side started Sunday’s second leg on the back foot after conceding two away goals in the 2-2 draw at home a week ago.
While more goals were expected on Sunday, Lyle Lakay’s well executed free kick from outside the area in the 20th minute and Namibian marksman Peter Shalulile’s toe-poke from close range in the 52nd minute more than made up for the avalanche that never came.
The first goal came after Sundowns won the free kick after Maniema captain Mbiyeye Bisamuna turned his back on the ball as Rivaldo Coetzee fired a shot from outside the area, and referee Amin Mohamed Omar ruled that the ball had struck his hand. Lakay teed up his shot and delivered a crisp, curling, deceptive and snaking shot that dipped and bobbed before sneaking past bemused Maniema goalkeeper Jackson Lunanga Kialema.
The Brazilians resumed the second period with the pressure firmly on the Congolese side and it was only a matter of time before they were able to find a path past a nervous Kialema. The breakthrough finally came when Lakay delivered yet another curling free kick that somehow slipped through Kialema’s hands and spilt onto the path of a lurking Shalulile, and the deadly Namibian made no mistake and beat the hapless Maniema goalkeeper from close range.
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