Sport

CAF WOMEN'S CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

Sundowns Ladies gunning for second continental crown against Champions League debutants Casablanca

Sundowns Ladies gunning for second continental crown against Champions League debutants Casablanca
Nonhlanhla Ntimane of Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies is challenged by Najat Badri of ASFAR during their 2023 CAF Womens Champions League semifinals match at Amadou Gon Coulibaly Stadium in Korhogo on 15 November 2023. (Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix)

Mamelodi Sundowns, one of the first clubs to be part of Caf Women’s Champions League back in 2021, will tackle debutants Sporting Casablanca in this year’s final, which takes place on Sunday.

There could be no bigger mismatch than the one that will see Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies take on Sporting Casablanca in the Caf Women’s Champions League final. On paper at least.

The continental tournament — conceptualised with the aim of uplifting women’s soccer in Africa — is in its third year after kicking off in 2021.

Winners of the inaugural tournament Sundowns fended off a spirited performance from the winners of the 2022 edition, Asfar Rabat, defeating the Moroccans 1-0 to seal a third successive appearance in a Champions League final.

“I am happy that we are through to the final yet again. There is so much more to come from this team. We are all determined to win this tournament,” said Sundowns striker Melinda Kgadiete after the game.

The semifinal clash between the two heavyweights was a repeat of last year’s decider. In that clash, Asfar thrashed Banyana Ba Style 4-0 to join the South African club on the exclusive list of African champions.

Heading into the third final of the competition, still in its infancy stages, Sundowns will look to pull away from Asfar and become two-time African conquerors.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Sundowns Ladies set for mega continental clash against Morocco’s Asfar in Champions League semis

In their way stands another Moroccan club. Sporting Casablanca. The North Africans sealed their maiden spot in a Champions League final with a 3-2 penalty victory over Ghanaian outfit Ampem Darkoa.

Zanele Nhlapho of Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies

Zanele Nhlapho of Mamelodi Sundowns. (Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix)

Penalties were required after the two teams could not be separated, deadlocked at two-all. Casablanca’s players held their nerve to seal a historic win for the club via the penalty lottery.   

Sundowns has some sort of rivalry brewing with Asfar. The duo has already clashed thrice in the continental competition. After Banyana Ba Style’s semifinal final, the two teams’ head-to-head record stands at one win apiece, along with a single draw.

They have already met tournament debutants Casablanca once in this year’s edition. The South Africans tussled with the Moroccans during the group stage, grinding out a 1-0 victory courtesy of a Kgadiete goal.  

Casablanca coach Mehdi El Qaïchouri believes that the fighting spirit they demonstrated in that defeat to Banyana Ba Style might serve the Moroccans well heading into the final.  

aila Dahrouch of Sporting Club Casablanca

Esther Owusu of Ampem Darkoa FC challenges Laila Dahrouch of Sporting Club Casablanca during their 2023 CAF Women’s Champions League Finals semifinal match at Laurent Pokou Stadium in San Pedro, Ivory Coast on 14 November 2023. (Photo: Weam Mostafa/BackpagePix)

“During the first match against Mamelodi Sundowns, it’s true that it didn’t work [out for my team]. But they realised that they are capable of putting this South African team through a tough time and made them sweat for their win. If we are disciplined, it will pay off,” El Qaïchouri stated.

Sundowns head into the final yet to concede a single goal in the tournament, with the defence keeping a clean sheet in all four games so far in this campaign. Sundowns coach Jerry Tshabalala put it down to the experience his side possesses, including some Banyana Banyana regulars.

This list includes players such as goalkeeper Andile Dlamini, Karabo Dhlamini, Lebogang Ramalepe, Kgadiete and midfield pivot Kholosa Biyana. They have been without the expertise of veteran defender Bambanani Mbane for this continental onslaught. She is still recovering from an injury suffered at the Fifa Women’s World Cup.

“We are blessed with several players who have played at the highest level. The core of our team was part of the squad that dazzled at the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations last year,” Tshabalala said.

“Their experience adds significant value to our side because they have played alongside top-level players. It makes a huge difference in our team and I am pleased about that.”

The final takes place on Sunday, 19 November. Kick-off is at 7pm at the Amadou Gon Coulibaly Stadium in Korhogo, Ivory Coast. DM

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