Champions Sundowns boost quarterfinal hopes with away win over St. George
Anthony Laffor’s 85th-minute strike saw Mamelodi Sundowns grind out a 1-0 Caf Champions League group state victory against Saint George AC at Addis Ababa Stadium in Ethiopia on Saturday.
The victory left defending champions Sundowns poised for a place in the quarterfinals.
Downs, in second place in Group C on goal difference from third-placed St George going into Saturday’s game at home against AS Vita, now have eight points. St George remained on five.
A draw for Sundowns against last-placed AS Vita at Lucas Moripe Stadium on Friday night will seal their progression, while a defeat may even be enough, with a victory for St George against Esperance in Tunisia unlikely.
The top two teams in four groups progress to the new quarterfinal stage.
Saturday's match was played on the same mielie field pitch where Bafana Bafana lost 2-1 against Ethiopia in a 2014 World Cup qualifier under Gordon Igesund.
As in that game, the stadium was packed. One of Ethiopia's players that day, striker Saladin Said, was even playing for St George on Saturday.
Downs coach Pitso Mosimane knows Said well. Ethiopia's star striker scored in a 1-1 Brazil 2014 draw in Rustenburg that cost Mosimane his job, and led to Igesund’s appointment.
At such an intimidating venue, Downs almost started disastrously.
Motjeka Madisha turned a cross by Mentsenot Umema onto his own upright in the fourth minute.
The same St George player produced the same cross minutes later, this time parried by Denis Onyango as far as Abdoul Zoko, who blasted wide.
In injury time Downs conceded a soft penalty, Said shooting onto Anele Ngcongca's arm. Said’s kick was saved by Onyango.
In the second half St George goalkeeper Robert Odongkara was at full stretch to stop a drive by Hlompo Kekana. The keeper spilled Anthony Laffor's dipping strike, but recovered.
Downs had cautiously edged an advantage. Substitute Thapelo Morena was played down the right, and squared for Laffor to sweep past Odongkara.