Up for downs

Portia Mlilo
CAF Champions League qualifiers

Double Action rise up for Sundowns showdown

Having made it all the way to the Final of the CAF Champions League qualifiers, high-flying local ladies, Double Action now face one of the toughest assignments in Africa: overcoming the mighty Mamelodi Sundowns.

Bursting with confidence, Botswana’s best go into Friday’s formidable, winner-takes-all clash in sparkling form, conceding just once in their four games to date.

After topping Group A with two wins and a draw, Double Action booked their place in the showpiece finale for the first time with a 2-0 victory over Mozambique’s Costa do Sol in a tense semi-final on Wednesday.

The historic victory was sealed thanks to a brilliant brace from captain, Gaonyadiwe Ontlametse, whose 7th minute opener helped calm the early nerves.

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With Costa do Sol piling on the pressure and pushing for a late equalizer, the 23-year-old forward popped up in the 90th minute with goal number two to settle the semi once and for all.

Having fallen short at this stage in the two previous editions, Double Action now have their eyes on the ultimate prize: downing Downs and qualifying for the Champions League, set for Ivory Coast at the start of November.

To do so, Phillimon Makhwengwe’s players will have to overcome a Sundowns side ranked as one of the very best on the continent.

Known as ‘Banyana ba Style’, the Pretoria outfit cruised through the early stages in typical scintillating style, scoring 16 unanswered goals in their three group matches.

Jerry Tshabalala’s troops found the going slightly tougher in the semis, eventually getting the better of Zambia’s Green Buffaloes 3-1 in a game that was level at half-time.

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Reflecting on Wednesday’s hard-fought win, Makhwengwe admitted there was not much between the two teams, with the 2-0 scoreline slightly flattering his side.

“We played with our back on the wall, our opponents dismantled our midfield but we used experience to dominate. They were coming at us and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them in the finals next year,” he said.

The veteran coach saved plenty of praise for his inspirational skipper and her player-of-the-match performance.

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“Our captain Ontlametse played like a true leader and she managed to command her team on the field. She has a big heart. Had they scored before us, we were going to be in trouble and she rescued us. Her last goal in the last minute of the game was a cherry on top. Beautiful goal!” concluded Makwengwe.

Meanwhile, his opposite number, Tshabalala told reporters he expects a difficult final, describing Double Action as ‘a stubborn side’ packed with national team players.

“We need to come up with a concrete plan to approach this tough encounter,” said Tshabala, whose star-studded squad include Mares duo, Sedilame Bosija in goal and Refilwe ‘7’ Tholakale up front.

Humbled 4-0 by AS Far in last year’s Champions League final having been reduced to nine women just after half-time, 2021 champions Sundowns have unfinished business on the continent; first though, they have to get past the best BW has to offer!

Kick-off at the Sugar Ray Xulu Stadium in Durban is set for 3pm – how sweet it would be if Double Action could pull off what would be the shock of the century.

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