Onyango: Bring it on Esper­ance!

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - MAZOLA MOLEFE

SOUNDS al­most cocky for Mamelodi Sun­downs to be­lieve they can win the CAF Cham­pi­ons League again, but who can blame them af­ter they went to the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo last week and brushed aside AS Vita Club like they were min­nows?

It’s that 3-1 vic­tory that has given goal­keeper Denis Onyango and his team­mates the con­fi­dence and ar­ro­gance to be sure that tonight’s Group C op­po­nents, and a for­mi­da­ble one at that in Tu­nisia’s Esper­ance, who are joint top of the log with the Brazil­ians, aren’t to be feared.

The three-times African Cham­pi­ons in­vade Lu­cas Moripe Sta­dium at 8pm look­ing for a win that will make them run-away lead­ers of the group – but so are Sun­downs, the ti­tle hold­ers.

“It’s the only tro­phy that is left for us now be­cause we have missed out on so much,” said Onyango, re­flect­ing on hav­ing to sur­ren­der the Absa Premier­ship to Bid­vest Wits two weeks ago and fall­ing short of any other do­mes­tic sil­ver­ware. “Right now the big pic­ture is win­ning the Cham­pi­ons League for a sec­ond time in a row. We are play­ing a very ex­pe­ri­enced team, a side that has won this cup be­fore and they have been in the top tour­na­ments in the world. For me, this is one of the big­gest teams we are fac­ing this year and it is a boost for us to be play­ing at home be­cause we be­lieve we can get the max­i­mum points.”

In turn­ing their progress in the group around with the away win over Vita last week, Sun­downs have put them­selves in pole po­si­tion to make it to the quar­ter­fi­nal phase of the com­pe­ti­tion de­spite the early set­back of be­ing held to a goal­less draw by Saint Ge­orge from Ethiopia in their open­ing fix­ture nearly three weeks ago.

“Yes we fum­bled a lit­tle bit in the first game, but we turned the ta­bles around be­cause we go to Tu­nis (on June 21) af­ter this week­end’s game. That is why it is im­por­tant to try and beat Esper­ance here so that by the time we play our last game against Vita (also at home) we won’t be un­der any pres­sure,” the goal­keeper ex­plained.

Onyango also cast his eye on the up­com­ing Premier League cam­paign, which usu­ally kicks off in early Au­gust with the MTN8 – a sea­son opener in­volv­ing the teams that fin­ished the pre­vi­ous term in the top eight. Downs were run­ner­sup be­hind cham­pi­ons Wits.

“It is im­por­tant for us to wrap up the group stages as soon as we can. We want to fight for the MTN8 as well in the new sea­son.

“We know it won’t be easy, but the more we fight, the more en­ergy we have. And I think when we score the goals we are ca­pa­ble of win­ning these im­por­tant matches. I know we haven’t had enough clean sheets as we have been con­ced­ing a few goals, which isn’t good for the team or our rep­u­ta­tion. We need that zero at the back.”

Onyango also didn’t rule out the fact that Saint Ge­orge and Vita could still fight their way back to the top of the group, al­though their most re­cent re­sults have given Esper­ance and Sun­downs a leg-up on their quest for the quar­ter­fi­nals.

“You can’t un­der­mine both Vita and Saint Ge­orge, who have two points and can get five if they win (they host Vita on Sunday),” he rea­soned. “We are eye­ing the next three out of the four re­main­ing matches and be­ing top of the log is our first prize, of course. We are the de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons af­ter all.”

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