Sundowns keep Al Ahly out to move into Champions League semifinals
Mamelodi Sundowns displayed the discipline of champions conceding, just a goal in a 1-0 second-leg defeat in their Caf Champions League quarterfinal against Al Ahly at Borg El Arab Stadium in Alexandria yesterday for a dominant victory in the tie.
Downs had done all the work in the supposed disadvantage of playing the home leg first with a 5-0 win in Atteridgeville, dispatching Ahly 5-1 on aggregate in a manner completely unknown to the eight-time Champions League winners.
The Brazilians now look forward to a semifinal probably against recent rivals and 2017 tournament winners Wydad Casablanca of Morocco.
Downs could easily have gone to Egypt and let in three against a team as good as Ahly, and had to ride out a nervous last half-hour, but still progressed.
But these 2016 tournament champions were intent on leaving nothing to chance, and are a disciplined enough outfit to have kept Ahly at bay until Walid Azarou finally managed to beat the outstanding Denis Onyango in Sundowns' goal in the 68th minute.
It took a mammoth effort, and every bit of Sundowns' experience and ability at this level, to take the second leg to 0-0 by the break.
It really brought home the quality of Downs' remarkable domination at home that, roared on by 40,000 of their fans, Ahly demonstrated their quality at home.
Big Moroccan centre-forward Walid Azarou bustled in front of the dynamic movement of midfielders Amr Al Sulaya and Ramadan Sobhi.
With all that quality, Ahly could not breach the Brazilians by the break, and only did once in the 90 minutes.
In the opening seconds Azarou was played down the right to force a save from Onyango.
The Downs keeper soldiered in the face of repeated first-half roughing up.
Sundowns had a let-off when Sobhi's cross fell for Al Sulaya to hit the upright.
Wayne Arendse gave the ball away to Azarou for another powerful strike at Onyango, who saved again.
Sundowns' front four were outstanding playing among themselves far in front of a defensive six, keeping Ahly guessing at the back. In the 40th minute Lebohang Maboe managed Downs' first shot, struck at goalkeeper Mohamed El Shenawy.
Ahly seemed unfortunate to have Junior Ajai ruled offside when the Nigerian beat Onyango soon after the restart.
Downs, though, had weathered the worst of the storm. They were able to slow the pace better in the second half.
Finally Ahly scored, as perhaps Sundowns' concentration waned. From veteran right-back Ahmed Fathy's cross Azarou got in ahead of Arendse to head past Onyango. It was too little, far too late, for the Red Devils.