Tshabalala praises Sundowns Ladies’ intensity winning Champions League final
Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies coach Jerry Tshabalala has praised his team’s intensity to maintain their energy through the 2023 Caf Women’s Champions League final and run out convincing 3-0 winners against Sporting Casablanca on Sunday night.
Goals from Refilwe Tholakele in the 21st minute and Boitumelo Rabale three minutes later gave Downs a 2-0 lead at the break at Stade Amadou Gon Coulibaly in Korhogo, Ivory Coast. Tholakele added a safety goal in the 78th.
The Brazilians impressively did not concede a goal in five matches in the tournament, scoring 10 as they clinched their second Women’s Champions League title after lifting the inaugural competition’s trophy in 2021. Downs lost in the final last year.
“They normally say lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same place but I think in this case it has,” Tshabalala said.
“In 2021 we won the tournament without conceding, in the third edition we’ve done it again. I wouldn’t say it means we were stronger than the other teams but I think we were well prepared.”
Tshabalala said given Sporting played an extra half-hour in their intense semifinal on Wednesday against Ampem Darkoa of Ghana, which the Moroccan club won on penalties after a 2-2 scoreline at the end of extra time, he asked Sundowns to come out with intensity in the final.
What impressed the coach was how his side maintained their energy levels to the final whistle.
“Honestly speaking I wasn’t expecting my players to keep the same intensity we started the game with,” Tshabalala said.
“When you look at the first 20 minutes, I said [to the players], ‘We need to suffocate them with a high intensity’. We knew they had played extra time and went to penalties, and there was a good chance they would be tired.
“I think it worked really well for us. But in terms of the girls bringing more energy to the tank, I think it goes back to the training sessions we’ve been having. They were very light, not that demanding, so the girls could recuperate as early as possible.”
Sundowns cleaned up in the awards for the tournament. Rabale won Best Player, Tholakele was top scorer (five goals), Andile Dlamini won Best Goalkeeper and Downs also won the Fair Play award.
“The awards really represent a lot. They mean that the hard work the team has been doing is being rewarded,” Tshabalala said.
“It can only be through the hard work that one wins the awards and we really appreciate that work from the players, technical team and everyone involved.”
Tshabalala is also nominated in the 2023 Caf Awards for Coach of the Year (Women) along with Banyana Banyana boss Desiree Ellis, who steered the national team to the 2023 World Cup quarterfinals.
“It’s the second time I’ve been nominated for the Caf Awards. I’m just hoping this time I’ll bring it home. But awards are awards — it’s just an appreciation of your good work.”