Mamelodi Sundowns are in a commanding position to advance to the semi-finals of the inaugural African Football League after registering an away 2-0 win over Petro de Luanda in the first leg in Angola on Saturday night.
Sundowns goals were scored by Marcelo Allende and Thapelo Maseko in the second half. The second leg will be played in Tshwane, South Africa on Tuesday. By competing in this groundbreaking tournament, the DStv Premiership champion are guaranteed a whopping $900 000 (R16-million) and if they advance to the semi-finals, they will bank $1,7-million R30-million.
The game was played at a frantic pace with both sides going at each other like a bunch of bulldogs. The home side opted for a high press while Rulani Mokwena’s plan was to keep the ball, frustrate their opponents and exert their authority.
Sundowns were spared from conceding a goal when goalkeeper Ronwen Williams saved a penalty kick from Gilberto. Williams was ever alert when he also pounced on the rebound from Alexander Guedos and parried the ball over the posts for a corner kick.
The relief on the Sundowns bench was palpable as they were given a lifeline. The burly Angolans were robust and pushed the Sundowns tiny players around, especially in midfield. But the visitors kept the ball and troubled the slow Luanda defenders.
And as a result, Allende opened the scoring in the 70th minute with a beautifully taken goal, after connecting with a pin-point pass from Junior Mendietta.
Substitute Thapelo Maseko scored the insurance goal after he broke the off-side trap, rounded the goalkeeper, and slotted the ball into the net from a tight angle. As the clock ticked, Mokwena tightened the defence when he took off midfielder Sphelele Mkhulise for defender Mosa Lebusa. Terrence Mashego also got a run and Aubrey Modiba was replaced.
The Angolans will have a mountain to climb if they are to turn the tables around in the return fixture. On the flip side of the coin, they may just get a drubbing in Tshwane.