‘Downs edge Alger to close in on quarterfinals

‘Downs edge Alger to close in on quarterfinals
Thapelo Morena of Mamelodi Sundowns celebrates goal with teammates during the CAF Champions League match between Mamelodi Sundowns and USM Alger at Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Pretoria, on 11 January 2020 ©Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

by Graeme Jackson

Saturday Jan 11, 2020. 17:08

Mamelodi Sundowns defeated USM Alger 2-1 at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium on Saturday to close in on the quarterfinals of the CAF Champions League.

Goals from Thapelo Morena and Sibusiso Vilakazi in the first half saw the Brazilians move to 10 points at the top of Group C, while USMA remain in third on two points. If second-placed Wydad Casablanca avoid defeat away to bottom-of-the-log Petro de Luanda later today, then Sundowns’ advancement will be confirmed.

Sundowns created the first scoring chance of the match on six minutes, with Gaston Sirino teeing up Themba Zwane, who saw his goal-bound shot turned away by ‘keeper Mohamed Zemmamouch. A short while later Hlompho Kekana had a go from long range and sent an effort just wide.

In the 21st and 29th minutes the Brazilians were again denied by Zemmamouche, with the gloves-man making fine saves to keep out shots from Sibusiso Vilakazi and Zwane respectively.

Sundowns were dominating the game and it seemed only a matter of time until they claimed the lead, and the opening goal duly arrived in the 36th minute. Thapelo Morena was the man who broke the deadlock, latching onto a loose ball to crack home a shot from close range.

Yet the hosts’ ascendancy was short lived, with USMA hitting back just a minute before the end of regulation time in the first half: Aymen Mahious sent a header beyond Denis Onyango to make it 1-1 and somewhat silence the home crowd.

However, ‘Downs responded to the equaliser in aggressive fashion and reclaimed the lead in injury time before the break. Vilakazi had looked dangerous throughout and his endeavour was rewarded when he ran onto a ball over the top of the defence and rolled a shot past Zemmamouche to make it 2-1.

The teams continued to trade chances in the second half, with Sundowns needing Onyango to make a couple of sharp runs off his line to snuff out Alger attacks, while the home side continued to pepper Zemmamouch with shots from all angles.

USMA missed a great chance to level the game late on when they earned a penalty, but Mohamed Meftah hit the crossbar from the spot and allowed ‘Downs to see out a victory which sees them put one foot in the knockout phase of Africa’s premier continental competition.

Mamelodi Sundowns (2) 2 (Morena 36’, Vilakazi 45+1’)

USM Alger (1) 1 (Mahious 44’)

Sundowns: Onyango, Ngcongca, Madisha, Lebusa, Langerman, Morena, Kekana (Mabunda 87’), Jali, Zwane, Vilakazi (Arendse 90+2’), Sirino (Maboe 80’)

USMA: Zemmamouch, Meftah, Oukal, Hamra, Cherifi, Belarbi, Benkhelifa, Mahious (Boumechra 62’), Benhamouda (Khemaissia 50’), Ardji (Redjehimi 82’), Benchaa

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