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Saturday, September 30, 2023

Al-Hilal draw a weakened Mamelodi Sundowns side to put CAFCL knockout round hopes in doubt

Despite strong home crowd support on Friday, Sudan’s Al-Hilal could not find the answer to their scoring woes and settled for a 0-0 draw against South African champions Mamelodi Sundowns in CAF Champions League play. The result keeps the Sudanese side in second place in Group B, but with their final game being a difficult road fixture at TP Mazembe, it is a missed opportunity to gain points. Sundowns remain undefeated with their status as group winners already confirmed before the game.

Sundowns rotated their squad heavily for the game, making a win for the hosts very achievable despite the South African team’s dominance in the group. Uruguayan forward Mauricio Affonso received a rare start but the tall forward struggled to get involved, leaving countryman Gaston Sirino as Sundowns’ biggest hope of finding a goal. Sirino contributed to some opportunities for the visitors as they threatened early on.

The hosts began to increase the pressure and towards the end of the first half Sundowns keeper Ricardo Goss was forced into action. Faris Abdallah did some nifty dribbling in the opposition penalty area before having the ball poked away to Abuaagla Abdalla, whose shot beat Goss but bounced back off the post. Only a few minutes later star forward Mohamed Abdel Raman was isolated 1v1 with a Sundowns defender but dragged his shot just wide.

Soon after the halftime break Al-Hilal spectacularly failed to score during a frantic sequence. Eid Mugadam exchanged passes to open up a shooting opportunity, sending a shot off the post that ricocheted off the back of a sprawling Goss. With the ball bouncing along the goal-line, Abdallah applied the touch but a desperate lunge from a Sundowns defender brilliantly kept the close range rebound out.

It was a day of frustration for the hosts with Sundowns weathering the storm despite their weakened squad. Highlights of the game are below.

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