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CAF Champions League

Mamelodi Sundowns 1-0 Al Ahly: Masandawana put one foot in Caf Champions League quarter-finals

17:57 GMT+3 12/03/2022
Peter Shalulile, Mamelodi Sundowns & Karim Fouad, Al Ahly, March 2022
Peter Shalulile was the standout player for the Brazilians on the day and he scored the goal which inspired his side to a win over the Red Eagles

Mamelodi Sundowns completed a double over current holders Al Ahly as they claimed a 1-0 win over the Egyptian heavyweights in a Caf Champions League Group A game on Saturday afternoon.

Peter Shalulile's first-half goal proved to be the difference on the day as the PSL champions took a giant step towards progressing to the quarter-finals, while the Red Eagles' hopes of reaching the last eight are still in their own hands despite recording their second defeat in this year's tournament.

Rushine de Reuck, Mothobi Mvala and Themba Zwane were the only three players who retained their places in the Downs starting line-up having started in the team's 6-0 win over Mathaithai FC in the Nedbank Cup match on Tuesday. Thapelo Morena was handed a starting berth having scored the only of the match as Sundowns stunned Al Ahly 1-0 in a Group A clash in Egypt two weeks ago.

On the other hand, coach Pitso Mosimane made two changes to the Al Ahly side which faced and thrashed Pyramids 3-0 in the Egyptian Premier League encounter on Tuesday as Amr El Soulia and Karim Fouad were recalled to the starting line-up. Percy Tau was deployed as one of the front three for the Red Eagles as the Bafana Bafana forward looked to haunt his former employers.

Sundowns edged Al Ahly in the possession stats in the opening stages of the game with Mothobi Mvala seeing a lot of the ball in the visitors' box and he was unlucky not to hand the hosts an early lead. The tough-tackling midfielder connected well with Zwane's low cross from the right, but his deflected shot shaved the top of the crossbar with goalkeeper Mohamed El Shenawy rooted to the ground.

El Shenawy, who is considered by many to be the best goalkeeper based in Africa, was beaten in the 23rd minute by Shalulile. Lyle Lakay's delivery from a corner-kick was top notch as he picked out Shalulile at the back post and the Namibia international poked the ball home to hand Sundowns a 1-0 lead - making it three goals in as many competitive matches.

Shalulile was causing havoc for the Red Eagles' defence with his unpredictable runs into the visitors' box and he had a chance to double Masandawana's lead, but this time he couldn't keep his volleyed effort on target. Khuliso Mudau's curling cross which was meant for Shalulile was timely intercepted by Shenawy and the score was 1-0 to Sundowns at the interval.

Masandawana surged forward in numbers after the restart with Shalulile continuing from where he left off in the first half in terms of making dangerous runs into the Red Eagles' box. The lethal striker controlled a cross from Lakay brilliantly before setting up Haashim Domingo, whose first-time shot was pushed away by El Shenawy.

With his fellow co-head coach Rhulani Mokwena absent in the dugout due to suspension, Manqoba Mngqithi made changes in the 67th minute as he introduced Pavol Safranko and Teboho Mokoena. The duo looked to make an immediate impact as Safranko was denied by El Shenawy from a one-on-one situation before Egypt's finest keeper parried away Mokoena's long-range effort.

However, the momentum was the Red Eagles in the closing stages of the game with Mosimane having introduced Hossam Hassan, Aymen Ashraf and Ahmed Abdel Kader who replaced an ineffective Tau, whose only contribution was firing a tame shot which was saved by keeper Kennedy Mweene in the first-half.

Mweene pulled off a fine save to deny Ashraf and then an unmarked Hassan failed to direct his header towards goal after connecting with Ali Maaloul's great cross from the left and ultimately, the encounter ended in a 1-0 win in favour of Sundowns.

Therefore, Sundowns opened a six-point gap at the top of the group standings and they need a point from their last two games in order to advance to the quarter-finals, while Al Ahly remained second on the table with the destiny in their own hands.