SHOT AT REDEMPTION
Sundowns Ladies set for mega continental clash against Morocco’s Asfar in Champions League semis
Moroccan side Asfar Rabat walloped Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies 4-0 when the two teams clashed in the Champions League final last year. Nevertheless, the South Africans are not motivated by revenge ahead of their semifinal encounter on Wednesday.
Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies are gunning for a place in the final of the third edition of the Caf Women’s Champions League. Since the tournament’s inception in 2021, Banyana Ba Style have been the team to beat.
Two years ago, during the inaugural edition of the continental competition, the South Africans managed to win the tournament undefeated. They also did not concede a single goal in open play on the way to that historic victory in 2021 — downing Ghanaian side Hasaacas Ladies 2-0 in the decider.
In last year’s final, they were once again present until the last whistle of the tournament. However, this time they were not on the winning side as Moroccan hard-hitters Asfar Rabat dented Masandawana’s impeccable record of not losing a single match in the tournament.
Asfar extinguished Banyana Ba Style’s hopes of extending their continental record to two cups from two finals after vanquishing the South Africans 4-0 in the 2022 decider.
Now the two heavyweights are set to clash once more, this time in the semifinal of the third edition. The bout is scheduled for 7pm, on Wednesday, 15 November. In the other semifinal, it will be Ampem Darkoa Ladies of Ghana, against Morocco’s Sporting Casablanca.
Banyana Ba Style head into the encounter off a resoundingly dominant display in the group stages. They held off valiant challenges from Tanzanian side JTK Queens, Morocco’s Casablanca and tournament hosts, Athlético Abidjan, of Ivory Coast.
In the process, the South African side ended the group stage with a maximum of nine points from their three matches. They scored six, but impressively did not concede a single goal.
Despite this impressive record, Sundowns maintain that their group phase was not a walk in the park.
“Our group stage fixtures were far from easy. Each of the three teams in our group came prepared with their Plan A and played with great determination to secure positive results,” stated Sundowns defender Regina Mogolola.
“For example, our match against JKT Queens was particularly tough due to their physicality. Other teams employed various strategies, requiring us to constantly adapt our game to achieve results. Overall, the group stage provided valuable learning experiences, exposing us to a variety of tactics employed by our opponents.”
Against Asfar, the battle is set to be even tougher. However, there is no sense of revenge in the minds of Banyana Ba Style. That embarrassing beatdown courtesy of the Moroccans a year ago is in the past.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Ruthless Asfar dethrone Sundowns Ladies as African Champions after royal thumping
“We can’t describe this game as revenge, but our collective goal is to win the tournament. Ultimately, it goes beyond the opponent we face and we are prepared to compete against any team, regardless of their identity,” said Sundowns skipper Zanele Nhlapho.
“We have learned valuable lessons from last year’s defeat and the new players in our squad have contributed to our winning philosophy. The team spirit is high and every player within the team is determined to secure victory. We are eagerly anticipating the match,” Nhlapho continued.
“We are not seeking revenge against them. Our primary focus is to stay grounded and play our football. Our purpose here is clear — to win the tournament,” added Mogolola.
Sundowns’ Moroccan opponents managed to bounce back with two wins on the trot, in spite of a nervy start to their title defence. They went down 2-1 to tournament debutants Ampem Darkoa in their opening game. They ultimately finished second behind the Tanzanian club in Group B.
In spite of that hiccough in their mini-league campaign, Asfar are not fazed by the prospect of jostling with their South African counterparts.
“We know Mamelodi Sundowns, but they also know us. We know that for this semifinal there will be some very good football. We will play as we know how to. Whether we meet them now or in the final, our goal remains the same, which is to win the final,” stated Asfar defender Zineb Redouani. DM