Sundowns beat TP Mazembe to claim full control of Group B
Mamelodi Sundowns have once again proved why they are rated among the best teams on the continent.
In hostile territory and against TP Mazembe, they used their experience to earn a hard-fought 2-1 win that sees them take full control of Group B in the Champions League.
In the process, the Brazilians have assumed the tag of favourites to finish top of the group and favourites to go all the way and possibly win this competition for the second time in their history.
Their opening goal was scored by impressive striker Peter Shalulile after the 66th minute and they allowed Mazembe into the game with an equaliser from Tresor Mputu but Lyle Lakay had the final say.
This win sees Sundowns open a healthy seven points lead over Mazembe with three matches remaining in the group stages.
The Sundowns coaching team of Manqoba Mngqithi, Seve Komphela and Rulani Mokwena went with the tried and tested in their starting line with their defence marshalled by Ricardo Nascimento and Mosa Lebusa.
In the midfield and on the attack, they went with the likes of Rivaldo Coetzee, Themba Zwane, Gaston Sirino, Sphelele Mkhulise, Peter Shalilile and Lebohang Maboe and the move worked.
For Mazembe coach Mihayo Kazembe, he also went with a largely experienced team that included campaigners like Joseph Ochaya, Christ Kisangala, Kabaso Chongo, Christ Kisangala, Rainford Kalaba and Moustapha Kouyaté.
The first notable chance of the match came for Mazembe after they managed to penetrate the Sundowns defence but Kouyaté’s close range shot went straight to well-positioned Denis Onyango.
The early threat sparked Sundowns into action and they responded with attacks of their own through players like Maboe, Shalulile, Themba Zwane and Sphelele Mkhulise.
The game continued with both teams not hurting each but the Brazilians nearly opened the scoring after 37 minutes when a close range shot by Zwane was saved on the line by Mazembe goalkeeper Ibrahim Bosso.
Shortly before the break, Onyango was forced to produce one of his best diving saves to deny Kouyaté from close range as Mazembe tried in vain to go to halftime with the lead.
Sundowns returned with more purpose from the break as they forced Mazembe onto the back foot with Lakay denied by Bosso after a good run down the left flank and Sirino denied by Tandi Mwape.
Not long after, Bosso was at it again as he denied Thapelo Morena from close range as Sundowns continued to pile on the pressure in search of the opener and they got it right later through Shalulile.
Goals finally came from Shalulile and Lakay for Sundowns and Mputu and they meet again for the second leg in Pretoria on March 16.