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Saturday, 25 September 2021

Preview: 'No excuses' for Ahly against Sundowns in CL quarter-final

Ahly enjoy a comfortable 2-0 first-leg advantage against South Africa's Mamelodi Sundowns in the African Champions League quarter-final

Ahram Online , Friday 21 May 2021
Ahly 2-0 Sundowns
Ahly defeated Sundowns 2-0 in the first leg (Photo: Ahram)

Ahly coach Pitso Mosimane said his side have no excuses not to reach the African Champions League semis as they meet South Africa's Mamelodi Sundowns in the second leg of the competition's quarter-final in Pretoria on Saturday.

The defending champions, despite being on the back foot for most of the game, somehow managed to claim a 2-0 victory at home to Sundowns in the first leg last week to take a giant stride towards a second straight last-four appearance.

They were helped by a stoppage-time blunder from Sundowns' veteran keeper Denis Onyango, which left forward Salah Mohsen with an easy tap-in and the South African side with an uphill climb.

Mosimane, who led Sundowns to a host of titles in a highly-successful eight-year reign before taking charge of Ahly last year, is taking nothing for granted though.

"Of course you come here with the hope to qualify to the semis.  Winning 2-0 in the first leg is a slight advantage but it doesn't mean that we qualify," he told the pre-match news conference.

"Sundowns played a good game. It is time to be focused to deliver the team to the semi-finals. There are no excuses.

"We came here 5 days before the match in order to adapt to the weather.  The hotel is good and the training ground is good. The weather is okay."

Ahly's last two visits to Pretoria include a bitter memory as they were hammered 5-0 in 2019 for their worst ever defeat in an African competition. Last year, they fared much better, holding Sundowns to a 1-1 draw to advance to the semis with a 3-1 aggregate win.

Sundowns' first-leg defeat this year seems a little bit harsh, given the way they took the game to Ahly at their own Cairo venue. They were unlucky not to score on several occasions, including in the first half when Gift Motupa headed against the post.

"Minimising our mistakes, I believe we can get the results that we want, although I know it will be a tall order," Sundowns coach Manqoba Mngqithi told South African website News24.

"We are confident in our group. I was saying yesterday that if anyone has the capacity to come back a winner, it is Sudnowns.

"Out of all the teams we have in the country who can overcome a 2-0 deficit, it's Sundowns. I strongly believe that."

Sundowns are boosted by the return of key midfielder Themba Zwane, who missed the first leg through injury.

Ahly will still miss Tunisian left-back Ali Maaloul as he remains short of match fitness after recovering from a lengthy injury lay-off. However, they welcome back defensive midfielder Hamdi Fathi.

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