Al Ahly beaten by Sundowns

Al Ahly beaten by Sundowns
Khuliso Mudau of Mamelodi Sundowns is challenged by Hamdi Fathi of Al Ahly during the CAF Champions League 2021/22 football match between Al Ahly and Mamelodi Sundowns held at the Cairo International Stadium in Cairo, Egypt on 26 February 2022 ©Weam Mostafa/BackpagePix

by Graeme Jackson

Saturday Feb 26, 2022. 23:31

Al Ahly’s CAF Champions League Group A campaign is under threat after they suffered a 1-0 loss at the hands of Mamelodi Sundowns in Cairo on Saturday night.

Thapelo Morena’s late goal secured victory for the Brazilians in a match where they rode their luck but also demonstrated a canny tactical approach and impressive resilience.

The result sees the South Africans reclaim top spot on the log with seven points, Al Merrikh are second on four points, while Ahly and Al Hilal have a point apiece. Merrikh and Ahly have played one game less.

The first half saw both teams struggling to find a rhythm, with Sundowns generally happy to sit back and crowd out Ahly in defence. The hosts were unable to build up a head of steam until the final 10 minutes or so, spurred on by a near miss from Aliou Dieng who sent an effort just wide from the edge of the penalty area.

Sundowns goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene then had to be sharp at his near post to turn away a cross-shot from the overlapping wingback Mohamed Hany – with Rushine De Reuck doing well to react quickest and clear the danger.

The second half opened with Percy Tau coming off the bench for Ahly to replaced Taher Mohamed and play against his former side, while the visitors almost claimed the lead out of nowhere seven minutes after the restart when Lyle Lakay’s sliced cross from the left struck the near post and appeared to have the beating of goalkeeper Mohamed El Shenawy.

That moment appeared to give confidence to Sundowns, who then put together a great passing move which should have ended with Peter Shalulile having a clear sight of goal, but he was too slow to react to Themba Zwane’s pass.

Lakay then had a more deliberate attempt on goal from long range in the 58th minute, but his beautifully-hit shot from distance was well saved by El Shenawy.

Midway through the second stanza Tau had the ball in the back of the net after a sustained spell of pressure, but the Ahly forward was flagged offside, and a few minutes later the South African side was incredibly lucky to get away with a mix-up at the back which should have been punished by the hosts.

Mweene was at the heart of that panic, and he made another rash decision in coming way off his line on 83 minutes, allowing substitute Afsha a sight of goal, but his effort was heroically cleared by Lakay.

Sundowns then took full advantage at the other end two minutes later, capitalising on the hosts’ inability to clear their lines when Shalulile teed up substitute Thapelo Morena, who fired home a drive from the right of the box to put the Brazilians ahead.

Ahly piled on the pressure in what remained of the game, but Sundowns just about held on for one of their most famous victories on the continent – including a sublime save deep in injury time from Mweene to keep out a goal-bound header from a corner kick.

Al Ahly 0

Mamelodi Sundowns (0) 1 (Morena 85’)

Ahly: El Shenawy, Abdelmonem, Fathi, Yasser Ibrahim, Taher Mohamed (Tau 46’), Dieng (Hossam 89’), El Solia, Maaloul, Hany, Ahmed Abdelkader (El Shahat 77’), Sherif (Afsha 64’)

Downs: Mweene, De Reuck, Coetzee, B. Onyango, Mudau, Mokoena (Mvala 67’), Jali (Domingo 55’), Lakay, Ralani (Modiba 67’), Zwane (Morena 81’), Shalulile

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