It's down to the wire for Sundowns after loss against Wydad in Casablanca

Ismail el Haddad of Wydad Casablanca and Themba Zwane of Mamelodi Sundowns during the Caf Champions League match between Mamelodi Sundowns and Wydad Athletic Club at Lucas Moripe Stadium on May 05, 2018 in Pretoria, South Africa.
Ismail el Haddad of Wydad Casablanca and Themba Zwane of Mamelodi Sundowns during the Caf Champions League match between Mamelodi Sundowns and Wydad Athletic Club at Lucas Moripe Stadium on May 05, 2018 in Pretoria, South Africa.
Image: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images

Mamelodi Sundowns were edged out 1-0 by the clinical class and professionalism of Wydad Casablanca, who clinched qualification for the 2018 Caf Champions League quarterfinals at Stade Mohamed V in Casablanca, Morocco on Friday night.

Anas Al Asbahi's 56th-minute strike from range saw Wydad confirm top position in Group C on 11 points with a match to spare.

Sundowns, still on five points, sagged to third place behind Guinean club Horoya, on eight points after they beat AS Togo-Port 2-1 in the earlier game in Conakry.

Downs can still qualify for the quarters. Simply they need to beat Horoya in Atteridgeville on August 28.

That would leave the two teams on eight points. Caf employs the head-to-head rule, and Downs, having drawn 2-2 away against Horoya, and then having beaten them in Pretoria, would take second place.

The match-up of the champions of 2016, Sundowns, and 2017, Wydad, in front of a wall of chanting red from the fanatical support at the 67,000-seater stadium was intensely fought.

Wydad are big, physical and beautifully organised and committed in the best North African tradition.

Sundowns are not just one of the best attacking teams in the Champions League, they are also one of the most technically organised.

The result was a chess match of a first half played with intensity, where quality buildups from either team could not reach a culmination in chances due to equally high-class defending.

Sundowns matched Wydad blow for blow in the first half.

If anything, they had the best opportunity, too, as Gaston Sririno's fifth-minute free-kick was flicked on by Hlompho Kekana into the path of Anthony Laffor on the right, who blasted over.

For the rest of a slugged-out half there were only half-chances.

Wydad's big winger Ismail El Haddad's skidding shot was held by Denis Onyango.

Themba Zwane's dipping drive/lob flirted with goalkeeper Yassine El Kharroubi's crossbar.

Early in the second half Walid El Karti played Abdelatif Noussir down the right, Onyango coming out to smother before the right-back could get a shot away.

It would take something special to break the deadlock. It came when central midfielder Al Asbahi struck a drive from 23 metres that swerved away from a diving Onyango, and inside the right upright.

Sundowns, applying pressure at the end as Wydad stood off, spurned a gifted opportunity to equalise in the 87th.

El Kharroubi's pass was straight at substitute Ali Jose Meza, who seemed surprised, and could only unsuccessfully attempt to steer weakly past the keeper.

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