Brace yourself for a thrilling second leg of the CAF Champions League as Mamelodi Sundowns have all to play for on Saturday night.
This after going down 2-1 to determined Zambian side Zesco United yesterday.
But Khama Billiat’s away goal could be a determining factor in the second leg as a 1-0 victory would take the Brazilians to the final.
But they will need to be clinical in front of goals as yesterday’s performance was not too convincing, particularly with the absence of Colombian striker Leonardo Castro, who is out with an ankle injury.
It took two quick goals from 29-year-old Jackson Mwanza to make a mess of Sundowns’ dreams of reaching the final.
The Zesco United striker was a marvel to watch for 90 minutes as Team Yaziko (Team of the Nation) shocked the Brazilians in the first leg of their semifinal at a partially packed Levy Mwanawasa Stadium in Ndola, Zambia, yesterday.
Mwanza’s silky moves, combined with a very dangerous Jesse Were, were a marvel to watch as the 20 000-plus crowd spurred on their team in the Copper Belt mining town – a 30-minute flight away from Lusaka.
It was heartbreaking to watch how Zesco, the reigning Zambia Premier League champions, made a mockery of Downs, who came to this match exhausted after playing two matches (MTN and league) over the past five days.
There was a comedy of errors at the back where Tebogo Langerman was used as a thoroughfare to Denis Onyango’s goalposts, however Thabo Nthethe with Wayne Arendse – who joined his team-mates on Friday night after his wife gave birth to a baby boy – came in handy for Pitso Mosimane’s charges.
Arendse had to swap positions with Nthethe to contain the speedy, clinical and skilful Were, who was running around the man known as “Mr Cool” and couldn’t handle the pocket-sized creative player.
Just as Mosimane thought he had controlled the situation on the other side of the field where they were lacking, Zesco’s toast of the day, Mwanza, came in. He was as troublesome as Were, but Onyango was having a better day and thwarted most of their efforts. That was in the first half.
The scoreline could have been worse if Zesco had Cletus Chama, who was suspended, on the field.
It was never going to be easy for Downs considering that Team Yaziko have gone unbeaten in six Champions League matches this year, having defeated teams such as Egypt’s Al Ahly in the process.
It has been 26 years since a Zambian team reached the last four in this tough-as-teak competition – the Nkana Red Devils lost 5-4 on penalties to JS Kabylie in 1990, when the competition was still known as the African Cup of Champions. Indications are that they are ready to reach the final and even win it.
The winner of this two-legged semifinal will probably meet Egyptian giants Zamalek, who defeated Wydad Casablanca 4-0 in the first leg of their semifinal on Friday.
The second leg of this competition will be played at Atteridgeville’s Lucas Moripe Stadium on Saturday, when Downs will host Zesco with the hope of turning yesterday’s scoreline around.
The home side will have to put up a brave fight if they are to book a place in the final as Zesco will be buoyed by yesterday’s result. However, Billiat’s crucial away goal could make all the difference on Saturday.
Zesco coach George Lwandamina was relieved of his duties as national team coach (Chipolopolo) after he failed to get them to qualify for the 2017 Caf Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) in Gabon in January.
Lwandamina relied on Kondwani Mtonga and Misheck Chaila, who nearly punched the final nail into Downs’ coffin in the dying minutes of the clash, but they missed and Onyango was also up to the task.
So relaxed was Lwandamina that he pulled out his hero of the day, Mwanza, in the 72nd minute for Idris Mbombo, who also added oomph onto their attack.