Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa dropped Nigeria’s representative in the CAF Champions League, Enyimba, into a deep hole on Wednesday, when they inflicted the second defeat in a row via a 2-1 defeat in a Group game in Pretoria. The defeat means Enyimba now have just two games – one at home and one on the road – to get enough points for one of the two semi-final places available. Sundowns were not dominant in that game, however the South Africans were superior in certain areas.
Sundowns were speedy and incisive, Enyimba were lumbering and unsure. The Brazilians, as Sundowns are called, used their pace to terrorize the Elephants all through the encounter. They completed 307 passes to Enyimba’s 168. Their speed also meant they won the 50-50 challenges, and seemed to create better chances. Their two goals came from being off the mark quicker. And Enyimba conceded a second goal because they were hesitant: the Elephants were slow to challenge the pass that Wayne Arendse converted for the winning goal.
Sundowns had an excellent first touch, Enyimba struggled to control the ball. An old football great once said “an excellent first touch gets most of the job done” and it showed in this game. The Brazilians were brilliant all day with their take downs, usually getting the ball under control with the first touch. This meant they have more time, as their speed plus good control ensured they were always one step ahead of the Elephants. Enyimba had a couple of breakaway chances, but poor control meant the ball bobbed out of reach, and the chances were lost.
The South Africans ruled the air. Mamelodi Sundowns won the majority of the dead balls that floated into the 18 yard box, at both ends of the pitch. And there was always the fear that Enyimba might concede a goal from one of those.
Pitso Mosimane had obviously done a good job of scouting Enyimba, he mentioned having warned his defenders against allowing Dare Ojo taking the shot that led to the goal he scored and rightly mentioned Ojo scoring a similar goal in the Nigerian League.
Man for man, Enyimba are likely the more skillful side. But their lack of speed, laid back style and loose ball control meant that they didn’t have the ball enough times to make their skill count. The bad pitch of their “home ground” in Port Harcourt will not help their case.