04/30/2012 1:56 AM
Following a confident start which saw them take an early lead in the first half; Black Leopards succumbed to a 3-1 defeat away to Warri Wolves in the first leg of their CAF Confederation Cup match on Sunday afternoon.
Lidoda Duvha shook off a jittery start to take the lead through Raymond Monana in the 18th minute. With the hosts making a strong claim for a win from the first whistle, it was left to the duo of Monama and Mabunda to wrestle control away from Warri through some nifty exchanges in the middle of the park, to stamp Leopards' authority in the match. The pair combined beautifully to engineer a move that was completed by the former through an easy tap in to put the visitors ahead.
There were similar exchanges to follow as Rodney Ramagalela proved a handful for Wolves defenders; regularly slipping away to whip in dangerous crosses for fellow striker Joshua Obaje. However, Obaje found it hard to contend with the tall defenders of Warri, who won everything in the air.
But Leopards continued to play enterprising football, attacking Wolves through quick wing play, which had even local fans applauding.
Leopards got their first bite at goal in the 8th minute, after some exchanges between Ramagalela and Mabunda, with the latter shooting wide. Ramagalela was in the mix again, putting through Thomas Madzimba for goal, but he missed. Minutes later, Ramagalela appeared fluffed a chance as well, after Mabunda found him unmarked in the box with a sweet pass.
In the absence of Captain Mongezi Bobe, who was on the bench, defender Vincent Mabusela led the team. And it was left to him and the tough Humphrey Khoza to deal with the ensuing pressure from Wolves, as the Oil Boys tried to find their way back into the game. However they found the Leopards defense of Mabunda, Kwena and Mabusela in no mood for giveaways.
With Wolves seemingly gaining momentum, keeper Azwindini Maphaha was called upon to make an excellent save to deny Wolves.
But Wolves were determined, launching attack after another, mostly through Michael Egbeta. His combination with Sunday Mba and Ossai Uche was fast proving too much for the Leopards defence to contain, prompting coach Sunday Chidzambja to shout at this players to move up, and not play too deep.
In the 30th minute, Wolves had a claim for a penalty dismissed by the Senegalese referee.
But the persistence of Wolves finally paid off as the pressure told when striker Augustine Amutu scored in the 34th minute with spectacular overhead kick after a goal mouth scramble. From thereon, Wolves started coming hard at Leopards. Amutu had another attempt at goal soon thereafter, with a bicycle kick, which sailed over the bar.
With Wolves midfielder Gabriel Ikechukwu starting to boss the centre of the pitch, the hosts were starting to look good for a lead before the break. Maphaha was called on to make a brave save from close range, off Amutu just before the referee called time on the first half. Before the first 45 concluded, Tintswalo Tshabalala became the first player to receive a caution in the match.
Leopards made the worst possible start to the second half, conceding a second from a set piece, 2 minutes into the half, handing Amutu his brace and Wolves a 2-1 lead.
Lidoda Duvha replaced Monama with Bobe in the 10 minute. He was immediately in the thick of things, wrestling control of the midfield to push Leopards into attack. But the effects of humidity were starting to show, with some weary legs evident in the Leopards team.
Wolves, clearly smelling blood, went for the kill and converted from another set piece just over 10 minutes after taking a lead, to make it 3-1.
Mabusela was later yellow carded for dissent. As the game drew to a close, Obaje had an opportunity to seal his homecoming with a goal, but missed a golden chance, with the ball entangled between his legs.
Speaking to blackleopardsfc.com after the game, Mabusela said the team is confident of a positive result in the return leg.
"We will bounce back. We conceded goals from set pieces, not open play. So am confident that we can rectify our mistakes and win at home."
The return leg against Warri Wolves will be played on 13 May at Giyani Stadium. Kick-off is 3pm.
Coach Chidzambwa says although he's confident about the return leg, the result was largely because his team is inexperienced in Africa. "But we are learning, and fast. I can't predict the return leg outcome because on a good day, you can win, and on a bad day, you can lose."