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Mamelodi Sundowns

Mamelodi Sundowns 1-0 Al Hilal: Masandawana off to winning start in Caf Champions League Group A

20:32 SAST 2022/02/11
Themba Zwane of Mamelodi Sundowns challenged by Mohamed Ouattara of Al Hilal, February 2022
The Tshwane giants were fortunate to walk away victorious following their clash with the Blue Wave, who were left to rue their missed chances  

Mamelodi Sundowns claimed a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Al Hilal Omdurman in their opening Caf Champions League Group A match on Friday night.

Themba Zwane scored the only goal of the encounter as the reigning PSL champions began their Group A campaign with an unconvincing victory over the Sudanese giants. 

Rhulani Mokwena and Manqoba Mngqithi named an attack-minded team with Pavol Safranko and Peter Shalulile leading the attack. Gaston Sirino was rewarded with a starting berth after he impressed as a substitute against Chippa United on Monday. 

There were familiar faces in the Al Hilal's starting line-up as former Baroka FC winger Gerard Phiri Jr and ex-Cape Town City attacker Abdul Ajagun both started. Mohamed Abdelrahman, who scored for Sudan as they defeated Bafana Bafana 2-0 in the 2021 Afcon qualifier in March last year, started up front.

Sundowns got off to the perfect start as they broke the deadlock just eight minutes into the match after a mistake by the visitors. Walieldin Khedr's poor back-pass found Zwane, who made no mistake as he beat goalkeeper Ali Abu Eshrein with a composed finish to hand Sundowns a 1-0 lead.

The Blue Wave responded by applying pressure on Masandawana, but the visitors were left vulnerable at the back with the hosts' speedy attackers ready to pounce. Thapelo Morena, who replaced an injured Sirino, was sent through on goal after a good move involving Zwane and Rivaldo Coetzee. 

However, Mohamed Ahmed made a brilliant last-ditch tackle to stop the attack-minded full-back from shooting at goal from close range and the score was 1-0 to Sundowns during the half-time break.

Al Hilal were the better side after the restart with the likes of Ajagun, Abdelrahman and Phiri Jr looking lively. However, the North African side's final ball was poor and they couldn't seriously test Denis Onyango, who had a quiet first half.

Zwane was a constant threat to the Blue Wave's defence whenever the hosts pushed forward and Masandawana were awarded a free-kick after he was fouled near the Al Hilal's box. Lyle Lakay stepped up and he was denied by a well-positioned Abu Eshrein.

The Tshwane giants were under pressure in the latter stages of the game as Ibrahim Mustapha unleashed a shot which was saved by Onyango, who was then beaten by Khedr's header, but Zwane made a crucial goal-line clearance.

Sundowns were able to weather the storm and they emerged 1-0 winners over Al Hilal, who scored through Mustapha in stoppage time, but the goal was disallowed for a foul on Onyango.

Masandawana will now take on Baroka FC in a PSL match on Monday, before taking on Sudanese side Al Merrikh in their second Group A match on February 19.