|THE GOOD, THE DAB AND THE UGLY: Pitso Mosimane|
"WHEN WE PLAY LIKE THIS, NOBODY IN SOUTH AFRICA CAN LIVE WITH US. NOBODY ON THE AFRICAN CONTINENT"
Pitso Mosimane, Mamelodi Sundowns
Saturday was a good day to be South African. A week after Bafana Bafana and the Springboks had let down the nation, after a week where Thuli Madonsela, angry students and cunning politicians had left us reeling, the Lucas Masterpieces Moripe Stadium in Atteridgeville provided more than a little solace.
The first leg of the African Champions League final was not expected to be a massive triumph, a glorious goal-fest. Pitso Mosimane was supposed to ensure his mighty Mamelodi Sundowns did not concede at home against Egyptian giants Zamalek. Nobody expected THREE GOALS from Masandawana. Even in my guise as the White Sangoma I only predicted a 2-0 win, and that felt optimistic.
But surpassing all expectations, Sundowns put the Egyptians, for all their continental pedigree, to the sword. Like the Sphinx, the White Knights had their noses throughly put out of joint.
The first goal, coming after 31 minutes of KaboYellow domination, was an absolute beauty. Hlompho Kekana, one of FOUR South African nominees for the CAF African-based player of the year, did the assisting with a wonderful ball to put the Liberian through.
But it was the wonderfully named Anthony Snoti Laffor, first brought to South Africa by Jomo Sono 11 years ago, who did the finishing. The 31-year-old, for so long an afterthought in the Sundowns strike force, simply rammed the ball home to lift a near-full stadium in to yellow mellow.
With Cuthbert Malajile gone to BidvestWits and his replacement Sibusiso Vilakazi not eligible for Champions League selection, Laffor has grabbed his chances with both hands before and after the ankle injury picked up by Colombian Leo Castro.
Laffor’s strike was followed by Tebogo Langerman’s speculative cross dropping in to the net over El-Shenawy’s desperate grasp before half-time. Few would claim it was shot, but they all count and 2-0 at the break was the least Sundowns deserved for their dominance.
Seconds in to the second half, Percy Tau saw his effort across the face of goal deflected home for a crucial own-goal.
And that was it. Zamalek, awful in the heat and altitude, looked completely unprepared. Their coach complained afterwards about Mosimane moving the kick-off to 3pm when they are used to playing in the evenings.
But that’s the point of continental football: make the away trip as grim as you can. Zamalek produced some sort of fight back in the second half, knowing an away goal could change the complexion completely.
But even the highly-rated Basem Morsy couldn’t manage it, shackled as he was by Wayne Arendse, who might have pulled the 24-year-old out of his pocket at the final whistle, such was his iron grip on the Egyptian striker.
Pitso, who laughed afterwards when he was asked if he'd take a job in Egypt, was in top form: "Toe-to-toe we are strong. We'll play the same way in Egypt. They can't deal with it. Nobody on the continent can deal with us when we play like this. But we must keep our feet on the ground.
“I don't like the celebrations happening today today but it's a one-off. The players must enjoy it. We are copying Orlando Pirates, they are the best team in South Africa, we are just behind them.”
Looking at the colourful KaboYellow concrete bowl, where the atmosphere was humming, he grinned: "We've never had this. The crowd. The yellow. It's okay for players to enjoy it. When Sundowns plays like this, not easy for any team.
"I've been in football for long. We have the advantage, we scored the goals but IT'S NOT OVER.”
Beg to differ Pitso. No away goal conceded. Three scored. Zamalek need a miracle of dodgy referees, lasers and riots to get close. Or Gavin Hunt of course!