Pitso Mosimane outwits Sundowns as Ahly take quarterfinal lead in Cairo
Mamelodi Sundowns have a mammoth task on their hands after allowing reigning Caf Champions League holders Al Ahly to beat them 2-0 in the first leg of their quarterfinals at the Al Salam Stadium on Saturday night.
The return leg will be played in Pretoria this coming Saturday with Ahly assured of a place in the last four if they can protect their lead.
Al Ahly‚ coached by Sundowns’ former boss Pitso Mosimane‚ started the match with an intention to get an early lead but the visitors held their nerves and quickly adjusted to the pace of the game and soon created a few half-chances of their own in an intense tactical battle.
Sundowns striker Gift Motupa was unlucky to see his header crashing off the upright with Ahly keeper and skipper Mohamed El-Shenawy beaten in the 20th minute.
The home side‚ however‚ showed their class and why they've won this trophy a record nine times.
Four minutes later Taher Mohamed beat birthday boy Denis Onyango with a well-executed strike taken just on the edge of the area. The 24-year-old winger created space for himself on the left after a swift move that left Sundowns’ defence shell-shocked.
Downs keeper Denis Onyango gifted Ahly their second goal on the stroke of full-time when he misjudged a long pass coming out of his area and failed to clear‚ leaving Salah Mohsen with an easy tap-in into an empty net.
The two-goal deficit would have been a bitter pill to swallow for the SA side‚ who showed much promise and character in the second half‚ putting the home side under immense pressure at times.
Mosimane has been under considerable pressure to improve Ahly’s results after falling behind Cairo rivals Zamalek in the Egyptian league where the Red Devils are seven points adrift‚ but with an advantage of three matches in hand.
A 1-1 draw against Zamalek earlier this week bought Mosimane some breathing space‚ but he knows that if he fails to win the second leg against Downs in Pretoria he could well be on his way out of Ahly as he would have failed to defend a title they won for a record ninth time when they defeated Zamalek 2-1 in November last year‚ just less than two months after Mosimane replaced Swiss coach Rene Weiler.
Ahly beat Sundowns at this stage of the competition last year by the same scoreline in the first leg in Cairo before holding the Brazilians‚ who were coached by Mosimane at the time‚ to a 1-1 draw in the second leg in Pretoria to win the match 3-1 on aggregate.
A repeat of last year's outcome could well be in the offing on Saturday as Ahly are the masters of delaying tactics‚ especially when they play away carrying a slender lead.
Mosimane’s team started to implement those kinds of tactics as early as the second half of Saturday’s first leg where there was an abundance of feigning of injuries by Ahly players.
Earlier on Saturday‚ SA giants Kaizer Chiefs‚ who are surprise first entrants to this stage of the competition‚ thumped Tanzanian champions Simba SC 4-0 in Johannesburg. If Amakhosi manage to protect that lead and secure a semifinal berth they will meet either SM Alger of Algeria or Wydad Athletic‚ with the advantage of playing a second leg at home favouring them.