In Saturday’s highly anticipated CAF Champions League matchup between Egypt and South Africa’s premier clubs, one moment of quality and an awful error helped Al Ahly to a 2-0 first-leg victory over Mamelodi Sundowns at home. Taher Mohamed’s long range strike in the first-half helped separate the two sides in an even and hard fought match before legendary Ugandan goalkeeper Denis Onyango’s poor judgment on an aerial ball gave Ahly an extra insurance goal in the last minutes, leaving a tough task ahead for Sundowns in Cairo next week.
With both teams highly favored to be among the last standing in the CAF Champions League and Ahly coach Pitso Mosimane facing the club where he made his name, the matchup was easily the most significant of the games this weekend. Sundowns looked worthy of obtaining a positive result on the road in the early stages and there was not much to separate the teams overall. In the 21st minute the threat Sundowns posed nearly resulted in a precious away goal, but Gift Motupa’s well headed effort from a free-kick went off the post and rolled temptingly along the goal line before being cleared away.
Ahly needed a boost to counter Sundowns’ increasing threat to their goal, and Taher Mohamed provided an excellent goal in the 23rd minute for the Egyptian champions. Mohamed received the ball on the left flank and did well to get the inside edge on Thapelo Morena before cracking an effort past Sundowns keeper Denis Onyango. It was the perfect antidote for an underwhelming start from Ahly and put a dent in the confidence of Sundowns.
The visitors continued to attack after halftime but Ahly’s defense did well to keep Sundowns from being particularly threatening beyond half-chances from set pieces. While Ahly’s attack has been inconsistent in their recent struggles in domestic play, their defense held out and created the circumstances for a late insurance goal in the second-half.
On 89 minutes Ahly’s second came from out of nowhere. Substitute Junior Ajayi launched a high, arching ball towards the edge of Sundowns’ penalty area, where Sundowns keeper Onyango came out and missed his attempt at playing the ball by a wide margin. Salah Mohsen was unfazed by the shocking error and was able to take the ball down well, tapping his shot into an empty net.
The concession of the second goal was a huge blow for Sundowns and makes their task more difficult with the teams set to play the second-leg next week in South Africa. Highlights from the game are below.
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