Onyango blunder helps Egypt's Ahly gain 2-0 advantage over Sundowns

Hatem Maher , Saturday 15 May 2021

Defending champions Ahly will take a comfortable lead into the second leg in Pretoria next weekend

Ahly v Sundowns
Ahly players celebrate Taher Mohamed Taher's opening goal (Ahram)

A dreadful late blunder by veteran keeper Denis Onyango gifted Ahly a 2-0 home victory over South Africa's Mamelodi Sundowns in the first leg of the African Champions League quarter-final on Saturday.

Ahly coach Pitso Mosimane emerged the winner from his first game against his ex-club, whom he led to the Champions League title in 2016 and a host of domestic honours in a highly-successful reign.

Winger Taher Mohamed Taher gave Ahly a first-half lead with a superb piledriver but the hosts laboured for much of the game, allowing Sundowns to dominate possession and move the ball around freely.

Ahly hardly created any chances at their Cairo venue and were heavily indebted to towering goalkeeper Mohamed El-Shennawi, who pulled off some fine saves to keep Sundowns at bay.

Just when Sundowns poured forward en masse in search of an equaliser, Onyango charged out of his area and completely mis-judged an innocuous long ball, leaving substitute Salah Mohsen with an easy tap-in into an empty net with one minute remaining.

Ahly, who are eyeing a second consecutive Champions League crown, will be favourites to advance to the semis when they face Sundowns in Pretoria next week.

Balanced strategy  

Sundowns, who adopted a balanced strategy, wasted the game's first real chance on 21 minutes when Gift Motupa beat Moroccan defender Badr Benoun in the air to head against the post from a floated free kick.

But Ahly opened the scoring just two minutes later when Taher neatly controlled a long ball from Aliou Dieng on the left, cut inside Thapelo Morena and planted a powerful shot past the despairing dive of Ugandan 36-year-old keeper Onyango.

Neither side created much for the remainder of the first half, although Sundowns had a half-chance on the stroke of halftime when Peter Shalulile ghosted behind the defence to run onto a threaded pass on the right hand side of the penalty area, only for El-Shennawi to push away his attempted cross.

El-Shennawi stole the show in a second half in which Ahly were pegged back, blocking a near-post header from Mosa Lebusa following a corner in the 59th minute and producing a brilliant save to tip over a shot from Motupa.

Ahly netted against the run of play following Onyango's error and Sundowns barely had time to score what could have been a crucial away goal, leaving their chances to progress hanging in the balance.

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