Goals by Thapelo Morena, Themba Zwane and Lebohang Maboe not only saw Mamelodi Sundowns exact revenge on Lobi Stars courtesy of a 3-0 win, but also confirmed their place in the Caf Champions League quarterfinals.
With a place in the next round of the competition at stake, Sundowns hosted Lobi Stars last night in the penultimate game in Group A, which promised excitement.
On the other hand, Lobi Stars were fighting for their lives in the competition and were looking to do something they have not done so far in this season’s Champions League – win a game away from home.
As expected, both teams were going for the kill and Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane asserted this by naming an attacking line-up filled with experience.
Ricardo Nascimento and Wayne Arendse returned to the starting XI after sitting out their side’s domestic clash against Cape Town City on Tuesday.
However, it was upfront where Sundowns looked to make a statement from the off.
Having netted 23.5% of their goals within the first 15 minutes, Sundowns added to that statistic as Morena, who was another one of the Tshwane giant’s returnees, broke the deadlock with two minutes played.
Gaston Sirino subsequently registered his third assist of the tournament as he played a splendid ball into the path of the full-back, who made no mistake from close range.
Sundowns had Lobi Stars under the cosh thereafter as they looked to give themselves a cushion and Anthony Laffor forced Stars keeper Olufemi Kayode into one of many saves on the night, this time courtesy of the Liberian’s rasping effort from range.
The first half certainly lived up to the hype and expectations as both sides were having a real go at each other.
Sundowns though looked comfortable and were turning on their trademark ‘Shoeshine and Piano’ brand of football.
The breakthrough was made as Stars were guilty of a mistake at the back and Zwane took full advantage grabbing his fifth goal of the campaign, before Maboe joined in on the party with a goal of his own following the restart, putting Sundowns firmly in the driving seat heading into the break.
With Sundowns three goals to the good, Mosimane’s men seemed to take their foot off the accelerator in the second half especially as Rivaldo Coetzee was brought on for Tiyani Mabunda.
But as all big teams on the continent are capable of doing, Sundowns were able to transition back onto the attack with the proverbial flick of a switch, and Sirino was then denied by the busy Lobi Stars keeper.
In response, the visitors threw on another heavyweight in Mathias Martins, and to Lobi Stars’ credit they did not give up without a fight even having several half-chances deep into the second half as they looked for a consolation goal in order to avoid registering their fifth game without a goal in the competition.
As the final whistle loomed, Sundowns again began to come into their own as Emiliano Tade was introduced and drafted alongside Maboe as they looked to finish strong.
Sundowns came within a whisker of a fourth but Kayode produced another fantastic save to avert what would have been an own goal, ensuring that the hosts would secure a 3-0 win.
This proved enough to book Sundowns a place in the knockout stages, while Lobi Stars bowed out of the competition with a game to spare.