Mamelodi Sundowns lost the second leg of their African Champions League semifinal 1-0 at Zamalek, but take the title 3-1 on aggregate in a huge boost for South African football.
Sundowns held a hefty 3-0 lead from the first leg in Pretoria last weekend, but were up against a full Borg El Arab Stadium and a fired-up Zamalek.
Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane made just the one change from the side that won the first leg and it was forced by suspension as Wayne Arendse sat out, replaced by the Ivorian Bangaly Soumahoro.
Zamalek made two changes, pairing Ahmed Dwidar with Ali Gabr in central defence, while playmaker Mostafa Fathi replaced Shikabala.
Zamlaek made a strong start and put immediate pressure on the Sundowns goal, with the players geeing up the crowd. Basem Morsi was fortunate to only get a warning for a clear stamp on Denis Onyango.
Khama Billiat had the first effort on target for Sundowns after a well-worked move, but his efort from 35-yards drifted well side.
Zamalek’s Nigerian forward Stanley Ohawuchi sliced between Thabo Nthethe and Soumahoro, but with just Onyango to beat, put his shot wide of goal in what was a huge let-off for the visitors.
Sundowns were dealt a blow midway through the first half when they lost first-choice keeper Onyango to injury, to be repalced by the experienced Wayne Sandilands.
The Brazilians’ best chance of the first half came as Billiat did brilliantly to work space for himself and fed Tau, whose acrobatic shot was well saved by Mahmoud Gennesh.
Another great break by Sundowns three minutes before halftime saw Billiat’s shot deflected onto the top of the crossbar for a corner, which was cleared.
And when the visitors broke yet again, Anthony Laffor unleashed a viscious drive that was tipped over the top by Gennesh. Laffor then headed wide from the resultant corner.
The referee added eight minutes of injury-time at the end of the first half, mostly for a stoppage to treat Onyango, but Sundowns were able to hold on to the break.
Zamalek dominated possession in the opening 15 minutes of the second half, but bar a wild shot from Mostafa Fathi, were unable to unduly trouble Sandilands in the Sundowns goal.
But the opener came on 64 minutes and Sandiland will be disappointed with his part in it. Ohawuchi’s effort was on target and although the Sundowns keeper got a hand to it, the ball crept over the line to enliven the stadium.
Zamalek continued to pour forward and created numerous half-chances, but were denied by some excellent last-ditch defending from Sundowns and good organisation.
There was a huge scare for Sundowns with five minutes to play when Emmanuel Mayuka’s goal-bound header was cleared off the line by Soumahoro.