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Sundowns crowned kings of Africa!


ALEXANDRIA, October 23 (ANA) – Mamelodi Sundowns provided South African football’s most memorable moment in almost two decades when they lifted the CAF Champions League trophy, after beating Zamalek 3-1 on aggregate despite a 1-0 defeat at the Borg El Arab Stadium on Sunday night.

The last time a South African football team won a major competition was back in 1996, the year Bafana Bafana triumphed in the African Cup of Nations, which had taken place only a year after Orlando Pirates beat ASEC Mimosa in the Champions League final – the only PSL club with a star to their badge – until now.

The hard work for Sundowns had really been done in last Saturday’s 3-0 home semi-final win in Pretoria; the second leg was all about holding on in north Africa, which was done without too many issues.

As expected, the atmosphere in north Africa on Sunday was electric, the green lasers out in full force and the stands close to capacity at what is the world’s ninth biggest footballing arena.

Sundowns’ game-plan was immediately clear: try and slow proceedings down, take the sting out of the game.

But the hosts had a great chance to score after only 11 minutes when Stanley Ohawuchi sliced through the heart of the Downs defence, but he curled the ball with the outside of his foot just past the post.

When the visiting team had the opportunity – usually when Keagan Dolly got on the ball – the plan was also easy to see – hit Khama Billiat, and on occasion Percy Tau or Anthony Laffor, with long-balls.

Downs however were to suffer a setback on 28 minutes when an injury cut short Denis Onyango’s night, which saw him replaced in goal by Wayne Sandilands.

Five minutes before the break and some wonderful interplay between Billiat and Tau saw the latter firing a volley towards the top corner which brought a diving save from Mahmoud Gennesh.

More chances followed for an increasingly confident South African side as Billiat had a shot deflected onto the crossbar before Gennesh made a fine save to keep out a thunderous shot from Laffor.

The Egyptians though were back on the front foot after the break and had chances when Bassem Morsi and Ali Gabr sent headers wide of goal.

Just when it seemed Masandawana had done enough to stifle Zamalek’s efforts, the home side found the net on 66 minutes, Ohawuchi scoring from 25-yards out with a dipping effort onto which Sandilands got a hand but was not able to keep out.

Spurred on by the vociferous home crowd, the White Knights were sniffing blood as they went chasing two goals in 25 minutes in order to level the tie.

There were to be a couple of scares for Sundowns as they held on doggedly for the closing minutes. However, the only time Zamalek really came close to scoring was in the 88th minute, but Downs defender Bangaly Soumahoro found himself well-positioned to clear Emmanuel Mayuka’s header off the line. The Tshwane side held on for the victory which will see them meeting some of international football’s best teams in the FIFA Club World Cup in December.

For club president Patrice Motsepe, this was the realisation of a dream which has been 12 years and millions of Rands in the making after he took over the club in 2004, while coach Pitso Mosimane, who had his critics during his time in charge of the national team, has surely proven the doubters wrong. – African News Agency (ANA)