We will make it to group stage, says Rayon coach


Rayon Sports forward Shaban ‘Shabalala’ Hussein (right) tries to go past Mamelodi Sundowns defender Morena Thapelo. Sam Ngendahimana.

Mar. 18: Second leg
Mamelodi Vs Rayon Sports

First round; 1st leg
Rayon Sports 0-0 Mamelodi

Rayon Sports interim head coach Ivan Minneart is confident his side will progress to group stages of the CAF Champions League.

The Belgian was speaking following an entertaining goalless draw against the 2016 African champions Mamelodi Sundowns on Wednesday evening at Amahoro National Stadium.

The 8-time Rwandan champions put up an impressive fight to hold the South African giants in the first round first-leg clash of the Africa’s biggest club competition. The return-leg will be played on March 18 at Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria, South Africa.

While the visitors had more chances in the opening 45 minutes, it was Rayon Sports’ Christ Mbondi, who missed the best opportunity of the game.

The Cameroonian forward was put through by teammate Shaban ‘Tchabalala’ Hussein and despite beating goalie Denis Onyango; he saw his effort rebound off the goal post in the 71st minute.

Pitso Masomane’s side might have registered an early lead but squandered chances through Tebogo Langerman, Leandro Sirino and Sibusiso Vilakazi.

Rayon Sports goalkeeper and captain Eric ‘Bakame’ Nshimiyimana was in inspirational form all-evening and pulled off a couple of eye-catching saves to keep the Rwandan champions in the tie.

After the match in which both teams had chances to take the lead, Minneart showered his players with praise, but, cautioned that the tougher job remains ahead.

“We did well tonight, every player pulled their A game to ensure a goal result. It is unfortunate that we didn’t win, which makes the second-leg match even tougher on our side. No time to relax because preparations start tomorrow (Thursday),” Minneart said during a post-match press conference.

Asked if he really believes his side stands a chance against Mamelodi, he replied, “We have a little over a week to prepare; a lot of things can happen in that time. We want to progress to group stages, we have to work for it. It is a possible feat, but absolutely a tough one.”

His counterpart, Masomane said; “I am impressed. Rayon Sports played a very good game. While I think I deserved a better result tonight, I am also happy we did not concede an away goal. The focus shifts to the second-leg.”

Mosimane took no chances, fielding a strong team against ‘The Blues.’ Key midfielder Hlompho Kekana was back as captain and Percy Tau leading the line while Jeremy Brockie started on the bench.

Should Rayon Sports knock-out Mamelodi, they will become the first Rwandan side to reach the group stages in CAF Champions League. The club was eliminated from preliminary rounds at their previous two occasions in the competition, in 2005 and 2014 respectively.