MASANDAWANA ROLLING TO CAF VICTORY?
Mamelodi Sundowns take a huge leap towards snapping Champions League quarterfinal hoodoo
Mamelodi Sundowns coach Rulani Mokwena has implored his charges to remain humble after they crushed Algeria’s CR Belouizdad 4-1 during the first leg of their Caf Champions League quarterfinal encounter.
Mamelodi Sundowns cruised comfortably past Algerian champions CR Belouizdad in the first leg of the duo’s Caf Champions League quarterfinal clash.
Masandawana were 4-1 victors, thanks to a brace by their sniper Peter Shalulile. Playmaker Neo Maema, as well as starlet Cassius Mailula, also registered goals on a great night for the South Africans at the Nelson Mandela stadium in Algiers.
Midfielder Miloud Rebiaï netted the consolatory strike for the home side, who now have the monumental task of trying to overturn the first leg deficit. The return leg takes place on Saturday, 29 April.
In spite of the team’s massive advantage heading into the second leg in Tshwane, Sundowns coach Rulani Mokwena has cautioned his charges against complacency.
Responding to a question on whether he feels his side has already qualified for the semifinals – considering how comfortable they were against the Algerians away from home – Mokwena shot down the assertion.
“No. Stranger things have happened in football. As I said, we still have a lot of humility [heading into the second leg]. We beat a very good side. We still have to face a very good side in Pretoria… It’s only halftime,” Mokwena told journalists during his post-match press conference.
The 36-year-old coach shared that his side “showed big personality to produce a big performance”. He added that despite the scoreline, the game had been a taxing one for his players.
“It’s the quarterfinals of the Champions League. It’s tough. We should be under no illusions that the scoreline represents how demanding this game was for us,” Mokwena stated.
Break the hoodoo
Despite the Tshwane giants regularly vacuuming up every trophy in front of them domestically of late – including winning the DStv Premiership six times on the trot – success in Africa’s premier club competition has proven to be a tougher prospect.
This is evidenced by the fact that since their maiden continental conquest back in 2016 – Masandawana have failed to reach another final in the competition. Since then, the South African side has been eliminated in the quarterfinals almost every season.
The exception came in the 2018/2019 season, when they managed to play until the semifinals, before being vanquished by Morocco’s Wydad Casablanca 2-1 on aggregate.
With this win, the South Africans have taken a massive leap towards breaking their quarterfinal hoodoo.
Egyptian giants Al Ahly kept their chase for a record-extending 11th title alive with a 2-0 victory over Raja Casablanca in their first leg quarterfinal encounter. South Africa’s Percy Tau played a key role in the win – providing the assist for the Red Devils’ second strike of the night in Cairo.
In Tanzania, reigning African champions Wydad Casablanca went down 1-0 to home side Simba. Nevertheless, the Moroccan heavyweights will be confident of overturning the result in front of their fanatic home support when the second leg arrives in a week.
In the opening match of the last eight on Friday, Tunisia’s Espérance drew first blood in their quarterfinal clash against Algeria’s JS Kabylie. They won 1-0 away from home to earn a slim, but precious first leg advantage. DM