Egypt's Ahly through to Champions League semis with 1-1 draw in Pretoria

Hatem Maher , Saturday 22 May 2021

Ahly's defensive strategy restricts Sundowns to a few chances as the Red Devils make it to the semis for a record-extending 17th time

Sundowns v Ahly
Yasser Ibrahim scored the opener for Ahly against Sundowns (Photo: Ahram)

Egypt's Ahly continued their bid towards a second straight African Champions League title after holding Mamelodi Sundowns to a 1-1 away draw to reach the semis with a comfortable 3-1 aggregate victory on Saturday.

Deploying an ultra-defensive strategy that featured five defenders, Ahly effectively killed off the quarter-final tie when defender Yasser Ibrahim headed home from a corner after 11 minutes, leaving Sundowns needing four goals without reply to advance.

The hosts could only net one through another header from Mosa Lebusa on the half-hour mark. Their second-half pressing yielded a couple of goal-scoring chances but Ahly held firm to book a semi-final berth for a record-extending 17th time.

The Red Devils, who suffered a humiliating 5-0 loss to Sundowns at the same venue in 2019, knocked The Brazilians out of the Champions League quarters for the second consecutive year -- both with the same 3-1 aggregate victory.

Ahly, who are eyeing a 10th crown, will meet the winners of the quarter-final clash between Algeria's CR Belouizdad and Tunisia's Esperance. Belouizdad won the first leg 2-0 at home.

Early goal

Ahly put the game to bed in the early stages, Ibrahim popping up unmarked at the far post to head into an empty net after a corner was flicked by midfielder Amr El-Sulaya into his path.

Sundowns dominated possession but found it hard to break down Ahly's massed ranks. Their first chance came after 20 minutes when Sphelele Mkhulise's curling shot from inside the area narrowly missed the target.

Ahly's vulnerabilities in aerial challenges haunted them again when Lebusa beat Ibrahim to a right-wing cross to send a glancing header past the despairing dive of keeper Mohamed El-Shennawi.

Sundowns mounted an onslaught in a second half they controlled, with Ahly content to sit back and soak up their pressure.

Peter Shalulile harshly had a goal disallowed after the referee adjudged him to have controlled the ball with his arm and substitute Lyle Lakay sent a low shot that went just wide from the edge of the area.

El-Shennawi denied Sundowns a certain goal with seven minutes remaining when he came out to foil Gift Motupa, who was released by a superb back-heel flick from towering striker Mauricio Affonso.

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