Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies finished top of Group A at the 2023 CAF Women’s Champions League after their 3-0 win over host team Athletico Abidjan at Stade Amadou Gon Coulibaly on Saturday night. A second half goal from Chuene Morifi and a Refilwe Tholakele brace were enough to seal the victory.
Sundowns made a host of changes for the final group match with Zanele Nhlapo, Nonhlanhla Mthandi and Boitumelo Rabale the only players kept from the side that started against Sporting Casablanca.
The COSAFA region champions came into the match already qualified for the semi-finals and now have topped the Group with nine points without conceding in the group stage. They are the only side in the whole competition with a perfect defense record so far.
They will be joined in the semi-finals by Sporting Casablanca who thrashed JKT Queens 4-1 in the other group decider finished in second position with four points while Queens and Abidjan exit the tournament after finishing in third and last places with three and two points respectively.
The 2021 African champions had chances in the opening 10 minutes through Rabale. Sedilame Bosija was tested twice and she was up to the task. Hlogi Mashigo could have opened the scoring but her effort wasn’t strong enough. Miche Minnies had two chances in the half but were both saved, even Refilwe Tholakele could have been on the score sheet but her finishing let her down.
The tournament newcomers won a set-piece early in the second half and Bosija easily dealt with it. Immediately after that it was Minnies who had a go at the Abidjan goalkeeper forcing Cynthia Djohore to make a super save. Two minutes to the half hour mark Oratile Mokwena crossed to Rabale in the box however the Lesotho international’s powerful shot was met with an equally powerful save.
A minute later, Sundowns were called to make a save from a threatening counter ball from the Ivorian side’s number 10 Isabelle Gnaly. A golden opportunity presented itself for the Hollywoodbets Super League champions in the 63rd minute, with a good build up that forced the Ivorian keeper out of position however Tholakele could not make that count.
Substitute Lebogang Ramalepe could have also broken the deadlock with 20 minutes left to the final whistle but her attempt went wide. The hosts could have stolen a goal in the 75th minute after the Sundowns defense was caught in a scramble but Ramalepe made a crucial clearance. Soon after Morifi came off the bench to score the opener that was followed by two quick goals from Tholakele.
Sundowns will face the side that finish second in Group B in the semi-finals next Wednesday.