Zamalek win in Alexandria but Sundowns clinch Champions League title

Hatem Maher , Sunday 23 Oct 2016

Sundowns' midfielder Khama Billiat (L) and Zamalek's defender Ali Gabr vie for the the ball (AFP)

Needing three goals without reply to level the aggregate score, Egypt's Zamalek could only win 1-0 in Alexandria as South Africa's Mamelodi Sundowns clinched the African Champions League title for the first time in their history on Sunday.

The first half ended goalless, leaving Zamalek under pressure after they slumped to an embarrassing 3-0 loss in the first leg in Pretoria last week.

Nigerian forward Stanley Ohawuchi broke the deadlock four minutes past the hour mark and Zamalek piled on pressure in the dying minutes to add to their lead but Sundowns held firm on their second final appearance to win their maiden title, having lost to Zamalek's arch rivals Ahly in 2001.

Some home players wept tears of despair following the final whistle after missing out on the chance of delivering the team's first Champions League triumph since they won the last of their five titles in 2002.

It was only the second time Zamalek had lost in seven final appearances, having also been beaten by Tunisia's Esperance in 2004.

More than 60,000 fans flocked to Borg El-Arab Stadium in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria to egg on the White Knights, whose novice coach Moemen Soliman admitted it would be a "miracle" to overturn the big deficit.

Sundowns proved a tough nut to crack, keeping cool heads despite a wave of Zamalek attacks in the second half.

Few threats

Zamalek struggled to mount threats in the first half despite pushing forward en masse, with their repeated long balls causing little troubles for Sundowns' towering defenders.

The hosts' attacking midfielders mainly tried to feed Stanley Ohawuchi, whose pace somewhat unsettled the opposing backline.

Zamalek's best chance fell to Ohawuchi, who superbly cut ahead of the defence to gather a cross from right-back Ramzi Khaled and go clear, only to send a sliding shot just wide with the goal at his mercy.

Despite sitting back to soak up pressure, Sundowns looked very dangerous every time they gained possession, with their neatly-worked counter attacks almost resulting in a first-half goal that would have killed off the game.

They were just unlucky to lose goalkeeper Denis Onyango to injury, with Wayne Sandilands replacing him after 28 minutes.

Sundown's breakaways kept Zamalek's defenders on their toes in the latter stages of the first half, with goalkeeper Mahmoud Gennesh, who deputized for the off-form Ahmed El-Shennawi, thwarting a volley from Percy Tau after some fine individual work from the lively Khama Billiat and Anthony Laffor having a deflected shot denied by the bar three minutes before the break.

At the other end, Zamalek's defensive midfielder Ahmed Tawfik chested a cross at the far post and sent a left-foot volley that Sandilands smothered at his near post.

Zamalek came out with all guns blazing in the second half as Sundowns were pegged back.

Lone striker Bassem Morsi went close with a header in the 51st minute before Ohawuchi ended Sundowns' resistance when he skipped past his challenger and sent a low shot from 30 metres that squirmed under the hands of Sandilands at his near post.

Substitute Emmanuel Mayuka had a far-post header cleared off the line with four minutes remaining but Sundowns still looked solid to put their hands on the coveted trophy.

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