Brazilians down 1-0 on night – but win 3-1 overall
In an atmosphere and level of pressure at a rarified height where normal humans struggle to breathe, Mamelodi Sundowns became kings of Africa last night.
Surviving Zamalek’s relentless attacking, Stanley Owahuchi’s 65th minute goal and a clock that appeared to count down at one second to every two, Downs lost the second leg 1-0 – but they still won the Caf Champions League final 3-1 on aggregate.
After their 3-0 win in Atteridgeville last Saturday, the second leg at Borg El Arab Stadium in Alexandria was played in an electrifying atmosphere generated by a superb crowd, a match played at breakneck speed, guts, determination, drama and, in the end, sweet and satisfying glory for Sundowns.
The team’s players did the hard work putting their bodies on the line to keep the score goalless by the break, and in so doing won the game.
At times they did what their coach Pitso Mosimane becomes so riled about against lower-standard opposition in the PSL – parked the bus.
Last night, Sundowns all but threw away the keys, too, against a White Knights side playing like men possessed.
Mosimane had said the first 15 minutes would be crucial.
And on the night, Sundowns played the first 30 minutes superbly.
Their streetwise time-wasting, ability to absorb pressure and counterattacks – not committing numbers forward, but cleverly utilising the pace and skill of the front-runners – frustrated Zamalek.
An early piece of skill by Tebogo Langerman led to Khama Billiat having space to shoot wide from range.
It was a setback to Downs when goalkeeper Denis Onyango was stretchered off with a neck brace in the 28th minute and replaced by Wayne Sandilands.
In the Brazilians’ best chance of the half, Billiat skipped down the left and chipped to Percy Tau, whose volley forced a fine save from goalkeeper Mahmoud Gennesh. Zamalek worked the ball via Ayman Hefni from the right to Ahmed Tawfik free on the left, forcing a sharp save from Sandilands.
Downs then broke and Tau fed Billiat on the right, but the shot looped onto the crossbar.
Billiat won Mbekile’s long ball out of defence and fed Laffor, whose shot was tipped over by Gennesh.
Basem Morsy glanced a header dangerously close for the Knights just after the restart.
But Zamalek looked spent and frustrated at that stage and needed something – desperately.
It came when Owahuchi created space for himself in the middle and unleashed a skidding shot that Sandilands got a touch to, but could not keep out of his net.
The volcano erupted, and Sundowns had a tense last 25 minutes, with Zamalek revitalised and with all the momentum.
In the 87th minute, an Owahuchi cross found substitute Emmanuel Mayuka who nodded his header past Sandilands, but Soumahoro Bangaly cleared off the line.