Aboutraika too good for Downs
A sublime goal by midfielder Mohamed Aboutraika kept Al-Ahly of Egypt on course for a record third consecutive African Champions League title.
The "smiling assassin" celebrated his return to international action on Friday night after a three-month injury layoff with a late chip that sealed a 2-0 triumph over Mamelodi Sundowns.
Ahly won the third round qualifier 4-2 on aggregate after a 2-2 draw in Pretoria two weeks ago and will join seven other clubs in the draw for the group phase which kicks off on June 22.
Captain and defender Shady Mohamed opened the scoring midway through the second half, confidently converting a penalty after a reckless challenge on Mohamed Barakat by Benson Mhlongo.
The second match in the much publicised showdown lived up to expectations with Sundowns defending doggedly and matching five-time champions Ahly in approach work at Cairo Stadium.
Where expensively assembled Sundowns flopped was in the final third of the pitch with their only scoring chance coming 18 minutes from full-time in the Egyptian capital.
While Ahly look set to mount a strong challenge in the six-round mini-league phase, Sundowns go into an African Confederation Cup playoff next month against Gaouafel Gafsa of Tunisia or ATRACO of Rwanda.
The best chance of a cagey first half fell to Ahly striker Emad Moteab after 20 minutes when he intercepted a clearance from sometimes careless Sundowns' goalkeeper Calvin Marlin.
But Egypt international Moteab took too long to create a shooting position and his drive was bravely deflected by Cameroonian Christian Moudouthe for a corner.
Marlin redeemed himself by diving at the feet of Barakat to clutch the ball away from the star after quick, slick Ahly passing carved a huge hole in the Sundowns defence.
An often bruising encounter before a huge crowd boiled over soon after half-time with Sundowns captain and defender Michael Manzini cautioned by Ugandan referee Muhmed Ssegonga for fouling Moteab.
With Sundowns launching increasingly fewer attacks and needing one goal to survive, coach Gordon Igesund brought on Lungisani Ndlela and Zimbabwean Peter Ndlovu without success.
Sundowns came close to levelling when a close-range Lerato Chabangu shot took a wicked deflection only for Ahly goalkeeper Essam al-Hadary to make an acrobatic save at the expense of a corner. And with nine minutes left, Aboutraika delivered the fatal blow by pouncing on a Moteab pass and holding off a challenge to chip the ball over Marlin. - Sapa-AFP