CR Belouizdad first team to knock Mamelodi Sundows off their perch
CAPE TOWN - Hitherto unbeaten Mamelodi Sundowns suffered a shock 2-0 defeat against Algerian visitors CR Belouizdad in their final CAF Champions League Group B match at Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Pretoria, on Friday afternoon.
Despite this defeat, Sundowns will advance to the quarter-final round, together with Belouizdad, who finished Group B runners-up. The result, however, marks Sundowns' first defeat in this season's continental competition.
The remaining two Group B teams, Al Hilal Omdurman (Sudan) and TP Mazembe (Democratic Republic of the Congo) will join the ranks of the also-rans. Mazembe managed a 2-1 win over winless Al Hilal in their other Group B on Friday, and ended third in the group.
Straight from the kickoff, Sundowns grabbed the initiative, and it remained that way for most of the first half. However, it did prevent the Algerian visitors from taking a shock 2-0 lead by the time Botswana referee Joshua Bondo blew for halftime.
Both goals came against the run of play, and completely out of the blue.
The first goal came after a dreadful blunder by Sundowns goalkeeper Ricardo Goss. He was looking to play the ball out of his goalmouth to a teammate when Belouizdad striker Amir Sayoud pounced with an interception. He set off on a dribble, rounded a defender and Goss before scoring from an acute angle in the 28th minute (1-0).
A minute before halftime, Belouizdad doubled their lead after a telling counter-attack, which in its initial stages did not look threatening. However, once defender Zinelaabidine Boulakhoua was given a free run down the right flank, he reeled in a goalmouth cross. Striker Ahmed Gasmi met the cross with a scoring header, while Sundowns' central defence was guilty of ball watching (2-0).
This was a huge bonus for the visiting Algerians, who enjoyed a mere 33% possession in the first half.
Sundowns managed to impose themselves on the match to the tune of 67%, but they failed to exploit this advantage. All five of their first-half shots at goal were struck from outside the penalty area.
Just ahead of the second goal, Belouizdad showed some delightful touches in defence, as they warded off one attack after the other to keep their lead intact.
Sundowns showed a greater sense of urgency when second-half play kicked off.
They proved penetrative but they often lost their way in the final third, where passes went astray or players turned over possession because of poor option taking.
Just ahead of the hour mark, Sundowns made their changes to beef up their anaemic attack.
However, in the end, it proved too little, too late.
Strangely, in their first-round meeting. Sundowns handed Belouizdad a 5-1 thrashing.