Mamelodi Sundowns lost 1-0 to Al Ahly but still managed to make it to the semifinals of the 2019 Total CAF Champions League.
The 5-0 victory that the 2016 champions managed in Pretoria put them in good stead at the intimidating Borg El Arab Stadium in Alexandria.
The result meant Ahly, who finished as runner ups in last year’s Total Champions League, suffered the indignity of their exit in front of their home fans.
Ahly’s goal on the night came in the second half courtesy of a strike by Moroccan striker Walid Azaro.
Al Ahly knew the mountain that was waiting for them and did not waste any time trying to conquer it.
What they did not know is that they are coming up against a spirited Mamelodi Sundowns that withstood a barrage of attack from Ahly’s rivals Zamalek in 2016, losing 1-0, but going on to win the Total CAF Champions League 3-1 on aggregate.
As they began their fight to overturn the 5-0 scoreline, Ahly got on the offensive as soon as Gambian referee Bakary Papa Gassama blew for the game to start.
From that moment, Ahly threw everything at Sundowns, with Azaro at the end of the first chance on 16 seconds, but Denis Onyango sprung from his lines to save for a corner.
Sundowns knew from that moment that the whole game will not be a walk in the park.
For the next few minutes, Sundowns would have to contend with Al Ahly owning possession, looking for openings.
Things cooled off after some six minutes when Sundowns, through their captain Hlompho Kekana and Tiyani Mabunda started pulling strings in the middle of the park.
Just as Sundowns thought they were getting their hang on to the pace and intensity of the game, Al Ahly pushed through for a corner, and from that delivery, the ball found Amr Soulia unmarked.
The 30-year-old midfielder controlled well and fired a stunning curling strike, with Sundowns and Onyango saved by the upright.
Hussein Shahat tested Onyango with a thunderous strike two minutes later, but the Ugandan keeper had his whole body behind the ball to make the save.
Al Ahly’s failure to convert the half chances they were getting saw their players getting frustrated, with Soulia getting a yellow card for a late challenge on Themba Zwane on the 21st minute.
Wayne Arendse gifted Al Ahly a great chance on the 28th minute with a badly timed back pass, but Azaro’s ferocious strike was saved by Onyango.
Sundowns would get their first sniff at goal on the 30th minute mark, but Maboe’s shot did not trouble Mohamed Elshenawy.
Ramadan Sobhi weaved his way past Sundowns men, and on the 34th minute let fly with a good shot, and once again, Onyango denied the Egyptians.
Ahly’s Nigerian striker Junior Ajayi was yellow carded for a challenge on Onyango
The second half started with Al Ahly still having the bulk of the ball, and scored, but their goal was ruled out for offside.
Sundowns fought hard to stay in the game and keep the match goalless. They denied Ahly chances until the 59th minute, when Tiyani Mabunda handled the ball on the edge of the box.
Ali Maaloul’s free kick was headed out by Thapelo Morena, and the resulting ball was saved by Yasser Ibrahim, with Anele Ngcongca defending the ball for a corner.
Time ticked as Ahly were finding it harder to get even a single goal. At that time, their fans’ belief that they could pull off a comeback started fading.
By the 65th minute, Sundowns had still managed to keep the sheet clean as Al Ahly threw everything to score.
Shahat was replaced on the 67th minute, with Mohsen Marwan coming on in his place. That change led to Azaro scoring on the 68th minute to make it 1-0 in the match, and 5-1 on aggregate.
The goal was Azaro’s first of this Champions League campaign.
With 10 minutes to go, Sobhi fired one from range, and once again, Onyango was equal to the assignment, keeping the score at 1-0.
Sundowns continued to put on defensive players to calm the game down, Themba Zwane coming off, with Lyle Lakay taking his place on the 83rdminute.
It was never to happen as Sundowns kept it tight at the back, losing 1-0 on the day, and winning the two legged tie 5-1 to go through to the semifinal.
Source: Confederation Africaine de Football (CAF)