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Advantage Sundowns


The good luck was ominous. It sounded like the last line from a villain before he torments the hero.

SLOTTING THEM IN: Gaston Sirino of Mamelodi Sundowns celebrates his goal against Al Ahly on Saturday. Picture: Gavin Barker BackpagePix

A DISAPPOINTED Martin Lasarte communicated with the media through a marathon of translations.

But what wasn’t lost in translation, with his message conveyed from Spanish to Arabic and then English, was the embarrassment at being the man in charge when Al-Ahly suffered their worst defeat in the CAF Champions League.

The Uruguayan coach watched helplessly on the side-lines as the Egyptian giants were thumped 5-0 at Lucas Moripe Stadium on Saturday in the first leg of the Champions League’s quarter-finals. His job hangs by a thread even though he was appointed in December last year to replace Patrice Carteron whose contract wasn’t renewed after losing to Esperance in the final.

Losing the Champions League final with Al-Ahly almost leads to a coach’s sacking; being in charge of their worst showing in the tournament is probably a bigger sin.

Lasarte has to do the unthinkable to keep his job; overturn the 5-0 defeat to advance to the semi-finals. Most teams would go into the second leg with their heads dropped and having accepted their fate that their time in the Champions League is over.

But Al-Ahly isn’t like most teams. The 40-time Egyptian champions have a rich history of winning and they’ll enter Suez Stadium on Saturday confident that they can beat Sundowns by a six-goal margin.

“I haven’t talked at all about the return match,” Lasarte said. “I don’t have too much to say about it. We would like to congratulate Mamelodi Sundowns and the coach. In football it’s XI players against XI, there’s a bit of luck here and there. We have won many games before with five goals. We will wait for the return match. Good luck.”

The good luck was ominous. It sounded like the last line from a villain before he torments the hero.

But it will take more than Al-Ahly’s history to advance to the last four. They have to shake themselves from their slumber to beat a motivated Sundowns’ team. It doesn’t help that the Egyptians have a league game on Wednesday against Misr El-Makasa, three days before hosting Sundowns in Suez.

They have to get three points from that match with the race for the league between them and Zamalek tight. Al-Ahly’s main concern will not be their hectic schedule, but it will be how they were outplayed and were made to look like amateurs by a team still making a name for itself in the continent. They were lucky to leave Atteridgeville having conceded only five goals.

Sundowns were completely dominant and they rattled the post a number of times.

“There is not a lot that I can say about the match and the result,” Lasarte said. “All we can say is that thank you to Sundowns and coach Pitso (Mosimane). I would like to congratulate him and the team.

“We won’t talk much now, we will concentrate on the return match in Egypt. I would like to send a message to all the supporters, and those who flew with us from Egypt to South Africa as well as the Al-Ahly supporters in SA, we feel a little ashamed from the result we have.”