Sundowns score crucial away goal as Champions League semi hangs in the balance

Mamelodi Sundowns scored a crucial away goal and kept the scoreline in the first leg of their Caf Champions League semifinal defeat against Wydad Casablanca at Complex Prince Moullay Abdellah Stadium in Rabat to a manageable 2-1.

The second leg on Saturday, May 4 at Lucas Moripe Stadium hangs in the balance from Salah Eddine Said’s 26th-minute opener, Anele Ngcongca’s 41st-minute equaliser, and Aouk Badi’s 47th-minute winner for Wydad.

But Sundowns will certainly feel they have every opportunity of reaching a second Champions League final in four years.

Sundowns hammered club of the century Al Ahly 5-1 on aggregate in the quarterfinals. There was always a sense that Wydad would be a step up in strength of opposition.

The Moroccan club have been Downs’ recent nemesis. Wydad knocked the 2016 champions out in the quarterfinals on their path to winning the tournament in 2017.

In 2018 Wydad drew in Pretoria and won at home as Downs were knocked out in the group stage.

In this competition Sundowns won at home and lost away though Wydad still pipped the Brazilians to the top of Group A on head-to-head away goals scored.

After some early opportunities for Sundowns, initially matching Wydad blow for blow, the Moroccan giants’ big, classy, immaculately precise frontline began to steam through for chances with an attack of bewildering pace.

Wydad’s Ismail El Haddad’s dynamic movement and delivery rattled Downs.

From the brawny winger’s corner big midfielder Said deflected a stinging header that forced the first in a string of reflex saves from the gigantic-on-the-night Denis Onyango.

From Aouk Badi’s corner from the other side Ivorian Cheick Comara’s header was cleared off the line by Themba Zwane.

Sundowns fought into the game as Gaston Sirino’s curling drive was kept out by goalkeeper Ahmed Reda Tagnaouti and Lebohang Maboe’s low shot struck the upright.

Wydad reacted like a disturbed hornet’s nest.

Their goal came after Downs left-back Tebogo Langerman gave the ball away allowing Badi to square in for El Haddad, who teed up Said to slam past Onyango.

Onyango pulled off stops from Nigerian Michel Babatunde and El Haddad.

It said much of Downs’ class, that against an onslaught, in such a cauldron of red, they could fight back to 1-1.

Downs’ pressing earned a corner, from which Hlompho Kekana’s shot was blocked, the rebound floating across the area for Ngcongca to connect with a diving header.

El Haddad was the man behind Wydad coming out of the blocks with an equaliser moments after the restart. The winger ran onto a chip over the top, and his shot was parried by Onyango into the path of Badi, who slotted the home club’s second.

Both teams seemed satisfied to play at a more manageable pace in the second half, though that did also probably play to some extent into Downs’ hands of conceding no more.

Still, Downs were relieved when Zwane’s 81st-minute header struck his own upright.


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Publish date : 2019-04-26 21:12:00

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