Tough for Sundowns after defeat to Al Ahly in Cairo
Mamelodi Sundowns’ CAF Champions League dreams are hanging by a thread after they slumped to a 2-0 first leg loss to Egyptian giants Al Ahly in their quarterfinal clash at the Cairo International Stadium on Saturday.
Ali Maâloul bagged a second-half brace for the home side, who had looked unimpressive up to that point, though Sundowns themselves mustered little in the way of chances in front of goal.
The Brazilians must now rely on their imperious home record in the competition, which includes a 5-0 victory over Ahly in the quarterfinals last season, when they host the return leg at the Lucas Moripe Stadium next Saturday.
Chances were scarce for Sundowns, but their best came in the opening minutes as Themba Zwane made contact with a low cross, but could only steer the ball into the grateful arms of Ahly goalkeeper Mohamed El Shenawy.
A yard either side of the gloveman and it would surely have been a dream start for The Brazilians. From then on Ahly did most of the pressing, with Sundowns looking for opportunities on the break.
After Mosa Lebusa committed a foul on the edge of the box, the free-kick found the head of Ahly forward Marwan Mohsen, but he flashed his effort across goal and wide of the post.
Mohsen had another headed chance shortly afterwards, this one from further out and more difficult, but again he missed the target.
Sundowns were denied a break when Sirino was hacked down in one of a number of overzealous tackles on the Uruguayan, who was clearly targeted for some rough treatment from the Ahly players.
The wasteful Mohsen put another chance at the near post wide, though Sundowns keeper Denis Onyango looked to have his angles covered, as the teams went into halftime scoreless.
But Ahly got their goal on 56 minutes as the visitors were undone by a neat one-two on the edge of their box in a move created from outside of Egypt.
Tunisian Maâloul fed the ball in to Nigerian forward Junior Ajayi on the edge of the box and continued his run, collecting the return and coolly slotting past an exposed Onyango.
Ahly were then awarded a clear penalty 12 minutes later following an uncharacteristic mistake from Sundowns captain Hlompho Kekana when he tripped substitute Aliou Badji in the box, and Maâlou rifled the spot-kick into the roof of the net.