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Egypt's Zamalek suffer crushing defeat as Sundowns close on title

Hatem Maher , Saturday 15 Oct 2016
Zamalek v Sundowns
Mamelodi Sundowns Percy Tau (R) celebrates after scoring a goal during the CAF Championship final football match on October 15, 2016 at Atteridgville Stadium in Pretoria, South Africa (AFP)

Zamalek's defencive woes cost them again as they suffered an embarrassing 3-0 defeat by Sundowns in Pretoria that makes the South Africans on the verge of winning their first African Champions League trophy.

Sundowns were thoroughly worthy of such an impressive win, outplaying the five-time African champions for most of the game that took place at the Lucas Moripe Stadium on Saturday.

Anthony Laffor opened the scoring on 31 minutes after a defencive lapse and a dreadful mistake from goalkeeper Ahmed El-Shennawi allowed Tebogo Langerman to double the lead nine minutes later.

El-Shennawi, who has come under fire recently for a number of shaky displays between the sticks and saw his regular place in Egypt's starting line-up taken by 43-year-old keeper Essam El-Hadary, was substituted in the second half after picking up an injury, making way for Mahmoud Gennesh.

Zamalek barely had time to recover as an own goal by Eslam Gamal in Sundowns' first foray forward after the break left them with an uphill to climb.

The Cairo giants were lucky not to concede further goals but their task to overturn a 3-0 deficit in the second leg next week in Alexandria is daunting, with Sundowns appearing close to win their maiden title after losing to Zamalek's arch rivals Ahly in the 2001 final.

Same mistakes

Zamalek committed the same defencive errors which saw them lose 5-2 at Morocco's Wydad Casablanca in the second leg of the Champions League semis, giving Sundowns too much space to operate around the area.

Rookie coach Moemen Soliman opted for a bold strategy featuring three attacking midfielders behind lone striker Bassem Morsi, with natural midfielder Maarouf Yussuf occupying the left-back position.

Sundowns made their intent clear from the outset, exploiting gaps on both flanks to launch a wave after wave of attacks, with Zamalek's makeshift full-backs struggling to deal with pressure.

The lively Percy Tau sent a far-post header just wide midway through the first half before the hosts deservedly went ahead on 31 minutes when the unmarked Laffor nipped in between two napping defenders to control a through pall and rifle home on the turn.

Langerman made it 2-0 five minutes before the break with a fortuitous strike, his deep intended cross catching out the advancing El-Shennawi to go straight into the back of the net.

Zamalek's only chance fell to playmaker Ayman Hefni on the stroke of halftime when he cut inside his marker and sent a curling shot that went just over the bar.

The halftime talk did little to spur Zamalek into action, with Sundowns heaping more misery on them when defender Islam Gamal converted a low cross from Tau into his own net one minute into the second half.

Sundowns eased off after increasing their advantage but Zamalek still found it difficult to carve out openings despite needing an away goal to keep alive their chances of overturning the deficit.

The visitors piled on pressure in the latter stages, with the Sundowns defence blocking two shots from substitute Mostafa Fathi and defencive midfielder Ibrahim Salah following a goal-mouth scramble.

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