Home Sport Sundowns march to final of inaugural AFL despite red card

Sundowns march to final of inaugural AFL despite red card


Mamelodi Sundowns will be guaranteed R55 million after beating Al Ahly on aggregate on Wednesday to advance to the final of the African Football League.

Ali Maaloul of Al Ahly is challenged by Rivaldo Coetzee of Mamelodi Sundowns during their African Football League match
Ali Maaloul of Al Ahly is challenged by Rivaldo Coetzee of Mamelodi Sundowns during their African Football League match at Cairo International Stadium in Egypt on Wednesday. Photo: Mostafa Emira, BackpagePix

Mamelodi Sundowns showed they are not just the aristocrats of attacking football but that they can defend as well as they reached the final of the inaugural African Football League (AFL) on Wednesday night.

The Brazilians held Al Ahly goalless in a packed Cairo International Stadium to win the semi-final tie 1-0 on aggregate following the first leg victory at Loftus Versfeld last weekend.

Sundowns will play their bitter rivals Wydad Athletic Club of Casablanca in the two legged final starting in Morocco on Sunday. Wydad beat Esperance of Tunisia 5-4 via the shoot-out from the penalty spot earlier in the day following a 1-1 aggregate draw.

Sundowns owed their success to some stoic defensive work that saw them take all the hits Ahly threw at them, with goalkeeper Ronwen Williams saving a first half penalty despite having an uncharacteristic jittery game.

Even though they had Junior Mendieta sent off late in the match for a very bad high tackle, Sundowns still managed to keep the Red Devils at bay as Ahly threw everything at them bar the proverbial kitchen sink in search of the goal that would have sent the tie to the shoot-out

On the day he was announced as one of the nominees for the CAF Goalkeeper of the Year, Williams had a topsy-turvy first half performance he probably would rather forget quickly.

South Africa’s number one goalkeeper appeared to be having butter fingers as he continuously failed to hold on to the ball as Ahly took the game to Sundowns in search of the equaliser. But the big news though would have been his saving a penalty on 10 minutes when he denied Ali Maloul with a good save – Williams diving full length to his left side and pushing the ball away.

He was culpable for Sundowns conceding the spot kick, Williams attempting a pass too close to his own goals with his teammate tightly marked and thus possession being given away and a cross being sent to Percy Tau. The former Sundowns man toe-poked the ball over the advancing Williams who pushed Tau down for the spot kick which he did well to save.

If saving the penalty was supposed to have given Williams confidence going forward, what followed thereafter suggested otherwise as the Brazilians skipper fluffed two more balls and was lucky they did not get punished.

He failed to handle one high ball on 24 minutes and had Abdelmounaim Boutouil to thank as the defender blocked Tau’s shot from the loose ball. Williams was at it again just before the half hour mark but was lucky that the ball ricocheted off the upright as Ahly went for the goal.

Tau was unlucky shortly thereafter after he beat an offside trap to receive a high cross ball which he smashed first time to beat Williams but not the upright as the vociferous Red Devils crowd looked to celebrate a goal.

Tau was kept quiet in the second half as Sundowns cut out the supply to the right wing, but Ahly still looked the more dangerous of the two sides as they ventured forward.

Sundowns were not perturbed though as they dealt with the bombardment calmly and hardly ever hoofed the ball out of their zone but retained their traditional passing game even in their own half.

They had a scare late in the game when Ahly appealed for a penalty for a handball, but upon a VAR check the referee ruled that the handball was outside the box and Sundowns went on to register yet another victory over the Red Devils.


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