Sundowns too good for Nigerian side Enyimba in Caf Champions League
Mamelodi Sundowns have gone from being out of the competition to tantalisingly close to qualifying for the 2016 Caf Champions League semifinals after they toughed out a 2-1 Group B win against Enyimba at Lucas Moripe Stadium on Wednesday night.
Leonardo Castro gave Sundowns a valuable lead just before the break with a close-range 43rd-minute strike.
Ojo Oluwadamilare equalised for Enyimba in the 58th. Wayne Arendse scored a perhaps crucial winner in the 77th.
ES Setif were expelled because of fan violence that caused their opening 2-0 defeat to Sundowns in Algeria to be abandoned. The three-man Group B could work to Downs’ advantage in their attempt to reach the semifinals‚ despite the disappointment of their opening three points being annulled.
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Sundowns have put Enyimba – who lost their opening game in Nigeria 1-0 against Zamalek – on the back foot in a big way.
Downs and Zamalek now each have three points from a game. Enyimba‚ on zero‚ have a very hard task fighting back from two defeats to be one of the top two who reach the semis.
Sundowns – no doubt exhausted from a long PSL season‚ and mentally worn from being called back to this tournament after their second round opponents‚ AS Vita‚ were expelled – were impressive lifting themselves against a characteristically organised and robust Nigerian opponents.
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For a long period in the first half Enyimba stifled the Brazilians’ creativity in midfield. But Downs stepped up the skills prying for the opener.
They got one when Dolly was played into space down the left to square inside. Enyimba tried to scramble clear but the ball fell to Castro to sweep in from seven metres.
Enyimba brought the Champions League’s top scorer this year with seven goals‚ Mfon Udoh‚ on for playmaker Bartholomew Ibenegbu in the 53rd.
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Sundowns appeared to be grasping at energy and allowed themselves to defend deep.
From a corner Downs could not clear‚ allowing Oluwadamilare to rifle a right-footed shot into the top-right corner.
Downs pressed forward again. Asavela Mbekile made ground on the right and swerved in a fine cross that Castro deflected to force a save from goalkeeper Moses Ocheje.
But the Brazilians did appear to be sagging‚ as Sandilands stopped a shot by Dumte Pyagbara and Anaezemba Nzube.
Downs coach Pitso Mosimane brought on Cuthbert Malajila for Themba Zwane and Siyanda Zwane for Tiyani Mabunda.
Sundowns found their legs again‚ and then the lead again. At a goalmouth scramble from a corner Arendse spooned in a volley at the far post.