An early away goal from defender Yasser Ibrahim discouraged Mamelodi Sundowns’ hopes of a comeback as the South African champions drew defending CAF Champions League title-holders Al Ahly 1-1, losing 3-1 on aggregate in their quarter-final matchup. Despite a Mosa Lebusa goal later in the first half to offer some hope, Sundowns could not muster another goal and this marks the second straight season that Sundowns have been eliminated by Ahly at this stage.
The opening half started out frantically as both teams struggled to contain their excitement on the big stage. Ahly were content to clear the ball out and keep the majority of their numbers back in defense and overall, the strategy worked to contain Sundowns. The visitors were rewarded for their conservative play when they found a devastating road goal from a corner kick on 11 minutes. Aymen Ashraf whipped in a corner and El Soulia flicked the ball on at the near post, finding defender Yasser Ibrahim who headed the ball in from close range.
Needing four goals now, Sundowns were forced to throw numbers forward but finally settled into the match and showed a bit more focus in attack. The hosts finally found their opening goal in the 30th minute to give themselves some momentum when Audrey Modiba’s cross from the right flank found Mosa Lebusa, the central defender snapping a firm header that was too powerful for Ahly keeper Mohammed El Shenawy to keep out. Ahly’s opener and defensive performance made them satisfied to hear the halftime whistle blow with the score 1-1.
In the end Ibrahim’s away goal was too much for Sundowns to overcome. The South African champions pushed forward and generated some good opportunities but the bunkered down Ahly defense was too resilient and did well to contain top scorer Peter Shalulile as well as attacking substitutes Mauricio Affonso and Kermit Erasmus. The 71st minute saw Shalulile do brilliantly to take down a ball in the penalty area and finish past El Shennawy, but the referee whistled the Namibian striker for a handball and the replay showed that Shalulile did use his bicep. From that point on the chances of a comeback were truly slim to nil.
Al Ahly will await the winner of the CR Belouizdad-Espérance Tunis tie later on while Sundowns once again built their hopes up with an excellent domestic season, only to come up short against the Egyptian giants. Highlights of the match are below.