Al Ahly have secured a place in the next round of the CAF Champions League after holding Mamelodi Sundowns to a 1-1 draw in the return leg of their quarterfinal tie at Lucas Moripe Stadium in Tshwane on Saturday.
The Brazilians succumbed 3-1 on aggregate to the Egyptian giants, who did the damage with a 2-0 win in Cairo last weekend and will now advance to face either Wydad Casablanca or Etoile du Sahel (who will meet in their return match on Saturday night).
Sundowns started strongly and missed out on two good chances through defender Ricardo Nascimento in the opening quarter hour: he was denied from close range by goalkeeper Mohamed El Shenawy and also headed just wide of the target from a Gaston Sirino corner kick.
However, Ahly struck a major blow just past the 20-minute mark, with Ali Maaloul’s free kick deflecting off Lebohang Maboe to wrong-foot goalkeeper Denis Onyango and put the Egyptian giants 1-0 up on the day and 3-0 overall.
‘Downs hit back quickly through Sirino, who tapped home from close range in the 27th minute after El Shenawy had saved Themba Zwane’s initial shot, making it 1-1 on the day but leaving the hosts two goals down on aggregate.
Chances continued to flow for Sundowns, who drew El Shenawy into action on several more occasions, but the Red Devils always looked a dangerous prospect on transition and looked quite comfortable in ceding dominance. Nonetheless, half time arrived without further goals.
Sundowns made a couple of changes early in the second half, introducing Tebogo Langerman and Phakamani Mahlambi off the bench, but Ahly’s resilient defence – and ability to slow down the game through play-acting – ensured the hosts were not able to build any attacking momentum.
In fact, Ahly arguably had the better chances in the second 45 minutes, forcing Denis Onyango into several good saves as the ‘Downs goalkeeper found himself more and more exposed with his teammates pushing forward in a desperate attempt to get back into the tie.
However, Ahly were happy to settle for a draw in the end and the chance of an epic showdown with Cairo rivals Zamalek (who secured their place in the semis on the other side of the draw last night) in the final of the Champions League is looking an increasingly likely prospect.
Mamelodi Sundowns (1) 1 (Sirino 27’)
Al Ahly (1) 1 (Maboe og 21’)
Sundowns: Onyango, Ncgongca, Madisha, Nascimento, Lebusa (Langerman 46’), Maboe (Mahlambi 53’), Kekana (Ali Meza 77’), Jali, Zwane, Sirino, Vilakazi
Ahly: El Shenawy, Fathy, Metwaly (Hany 68’), El Hanafi, Maaloul, Dieng, Soleya, Badji (Ashraf 70’), Geraldo (El Shahat 55’), Rabia, Ajayi