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Ten-man Sundowns pull rabbit out of the hat to beat clueless Al Hilal

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Yasir Mozamil Mohamed of Al Hilal and Lyle Lakay of Mamelodi Sundowns fight for possession during their CAF Champions League match at the Al-Hilal Stadium in Omdurman, Sudan on Saturday
Yasir Mozamil Mohamed of Al Hilal and Lyle Lakay of Mamelodi Sundowns fight for possession during their CAF Champions League match at the Al-Hilal Stadium in Omdurman, Sudan on Saturday. Picture: BackpagePix

Mamelodi Sundowns showed they mean business when they beat Sudan’s Al Hilal despite being a man down in their CAF Champions League clash on Saturday.

Cape Town — Ten-man Mamelodi Sundowns showed their championship mettle when they sucker-punched the pride of Sudanese football, Al Hilal, 4-2, to retain their unbeaten run in the CAF Champions League group phase.

After leading 2-0 at halftime at the Al-Hilal Stadium, in Khartoum, the 10-man Sundowns added another two goals in the second half, although they surrendered two goals, one of which was a dubious penalty.

Following Friday’s Al Ahly versus Al-Merrikh result, Sundowns were assured of a quarter-final berth. However, the win opened a six-point lead over Pitso Mosimane’s Ahly. The Sudanese teams Merrikh and Hilal fill third and fourth places, respectively.

Straight from the opening centre, and three passes later, Hilal striker Ibrahim Mustapha unleashed a low right-footed drive from outside the penalty area, but his effort was blocked.

A moment later, Sundowns mounted an attack down the right and striker Themba Zwane broke clear on the fringe of the Hilal penalty area. For a moment it looked like he was feeding teammate Peter Shalulile in a possible build-up move, but the latter turned and fired a shot at goal. It lacked power but nevertheless, it took Hilal goalie Mohamed Saeed by surprise. The next moment he was picking up the ball from the back of the net in the second minute.

Hilal staged a fightback, but their efforts were mostly disjointed. They were often thwarted in front of the opposition’s goalmouth. They hardly posed a threat to the Sundowns defence which, after four matches, have as many Champions League clean sheets this season.

Sundowns were reduced to 10 players in the 12th minute when Bakary Gassama, the Gambian referee, harshly red-carded Kenyan central defender Brian Onyango who pushed an opponent off the ball on the edge of the penalty area. Midfielder Mohamed Rahman skied his set-piece attempt.

As the first half wore on, Hilal was seeing more of the ball, and despite the possession and numerical advantage, they conceded a second goal. Again, Saeed was taken by surprise as defensive midfielder Teboho Mokoena scored from a 40m free-kick. Saeed looked like he was chasing shadows as the ball flew high past him into the goals (2-0).

Towards the end of the first half, Hilal finished strongly, but Sundowns goalie Reyaad Pieterse, who enjoyed a rare Champions League appearance, did well to smother a shot from close range.

Hilal managed seven first-half corners to Sundowns’ one and landed 14 shots at goal, against a meagre four from the South Africans.

Eleven minutes into the second half, the Sundowns defence finally surrendered their season’s clean sheet record. Substitute Yasir Mozamil who joined the fray early in the first half scored with a close-range shot as Sundowns failed to offer a challenge, plumb in front of their goals.

The goal fired up the hosts, and they started running hard at Sundowns from all angles but failed to further headway. Instead, they were rocked by a crackerjack goal from Thapelo Morena, one of Sundowns’ heroes in Cairo a few weeks ago. Striker Lesedi Kapinga engineered the scoring move with a defence-splitting pass on the hour mark.

Some vicious tackles were coming in from the desperate Hilal, but the South Africans remained strong and resolute to the end, although they finished on a dramatic note as Morena scored a minute ahead of time.

A moment later, Osman Eltayib scored a consolation goal for the hosts who suffered a crippling defeat and were condemned to the bottom of the Group A standings.

Sundowns will play their final group match in two weeks when they host Merrikh.

@Herman_Gibbs

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