Early Sfaxien blitz stuns porous visitors

BOMBARDED: Sundowns goalkeeper Calvin Marlin was over-worked. Pic. Antonio Muchave. 12/11/06. ©
BOMBARDED: Sundowns goalkeeper Calvin Marlin was over-worked. Pic. Antonio Muchave. 12/11/06. ©

SFAX, Tunisia - An early goal blitz set up Club Sportif Sfaxien of Tunisia for a surprisingly easy 4-0 win over Mamelodi Sundowns in the African Confederation Cup on Saturday.

SFAX, Tunisia - An early goal blitz set up Club Sportif Sfaxien of Tunisia for a surprisingly easy 4-0 win over Mamelodi Sundowns in the African Confederation Cup on Saturday.

Tall, powerful strikers Blaise Kouassi of Ivory Coast and Lelo Mbele of the Democratic Republic of Congo wreaked havoc to give the 2006 African Champions League runners-up a three-goal lead after 29 minutes.

Sundowns squandered several chances to reduce the arrears in the Mediterranean city before Guinean Naby Soumah completed the rout four minutes into stoppage time at a packed 20000-seat Tayeb Mhiri Stadium.

Sfaxien have four points after two Group A matches having drawn 1-1 at Astres Douala of Cameroon two weeks ago while Sundowns have three after a dramatic 3-2 home victory over Tout Puissant Mazembe of the DRC.

The Tunisians harassed the South Africans from the kickoff in an electric atmosphere, forcing the expensively assembled visiting team to continuously concede possession cheaply.

A Sfaxien side coached by Swiss Michel Decastel used a mix of long and short, slick passes to carve holes in a porous Sundowns defence and the finishing was hyper-clinical. When Sundowns failed to clear a throw-in, Kouassi stroked a loose ball over the line to give his team a second-minute lead and Mbele, who played for South African club Orlando Pirates last year, added a second after eight minutes.

The third Sfaxien goal in the 29th minute exposed the defensive weakness of Sundowns as Kouassi rose between two motionless defenders and headed wide of goalkeeper Calvin Marlin into the corner of the net.

Sundowns coach Gordon Igesund introduced Lungisani Ndlela at half time and the gangling striker troubled the Tunisian defence only to be thwarted by the acrobatics of stand-in goalkeeper Lotfi Saidi.

And after surviving sustained pressure from the South Africans which deserved a goal, Sfaxien snatched a fourth when Soumah fired home from close range after Marlin blocked his first attempt off a cross.

In Group B, Al-Merreikh of Sudan trounced Dolphin of Nigeria 6-1 in a top-of-the-table clash in Omdurman and Ismailia of Egypt came from behind to draw 1-1 with Kwara United of Nigeria in Ilorin. - Sapa-AFP

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