In the African Football League (AFL) semifinals, Egypt’s Al Ahly suffered a 1-0 defeat to South Africa’s Mamelodi Sundowns during the first leg held at Pretoria’s Loftus Versfeld Stadium on Sunday.
Thapelo Maseko unleashed a powerful strike from outside the area seven minutes into the second half, finally breaking the deadlock and giving Sundowns a deserved lead that mirrored their dominance throughout the match.
Right from the kickoff, Mamelodi Sundowns established control, but Al Ahly’s steadfast defense prevented them from finding the back of the net.
After 20 minutes, Themba Zwane had a close call in opening the scoring when he received a long pass from Teboho Mokoena. However, the striker couldn’t quite control the ball inside the area, and Egyptian goalkeeper Mohamed El-Shennawy thwarted the danger.
Mokoena delivered a fantastic header from inside the area, only to face another brilliant save by El-Shennawy.
Sundowns maintained their dominance in the second half, and their relentless pressure eventually paid off with the lead.
Al Ahly missed a golden opportunity in the 62nd minute when striker Percy Tau provided a sharp assist inside the area, but defender Mohamed Abdel-Moneim couldn’t find the back of the net.
In an effort to inject fresh energy and find the equalizer, Swiss coach Marcel Koller introduced newly signed French striker Anthony Modeste and right back Akram Tawfik.
Koller made another substitution, replacing the Moroccan winger with Taher Mohamed Taher just nine minutes before the final whistle, but Sundowns’ defense successfully thwarted his attempts to level the score.
Despite relentless pressure on Ahly’s defense from the hosts, Sundowns, they came agonizingly close to extending their lead in the final minute of the game, only for Mokoena’s header to be denied by the crossbar.
Ahly played without several key players, including the in-form winger Emam Ashour, who was sidelined with a calf injury. Additionally, midfielders Amr El-Sulaya, Karim Fouad, Ahmed Abdel-Kader, and defender Mahmoud Metwally were still recovering from injuries.
The AFL title holder will be awarded a prize of $4 million, the highest reward in continental club competitions.
The second leg of this prestigious continental tournament will take place at Cairo International Stadium, with Ahly hosting Sundowns on Wednesday to determine the team that advances to the final.