Mamelodi Sundowns keep Champions League dream alive with win over Pyramids in Cairo

Fagrie Lakay of Pyramids FC challenges Terrence Mashego of Mamelodi Sundowns for the ball during their CAF Champions League match

Fagrie Lakay of Pyramids FC challenges Terrence Mashego of Mamelodi Sundowns for the ball during their CAF Champions League match at 30 June Stadium in Cairo on Tuesday. Photo: Weam Mostafa/BackpagePix

Published Dec 19, 2023


Mamelodi Sundowns kept their dreams of a second CAF Champions League title alive courtesy of a trademark Teboho Mokoena thunderbolt goal in a 1-0 away win against Pyramids in Cairo on Tuesday.

But the Brazilians nearly paid the price in the final play of a tight match when the hosts’ captain Aly Mosssad headed home inches wide of Ronwen Williams’ goal as Pyramids looked to steal a point. They did not though and were so incensed that they mobbed the referee at the final whistle in an inexplicable protest against what one can only think was what they thought to be unfair officiating.

Not that there was any such, for Sundowns were by far the better side and were deservedly victors to earn the maximum points which sees them tight on seven points after four matches with TP Mazembe who beat Nouadhiou 2-0 in Lubumbashi.

The South African champions were full value of the victory having taken the lead at half time and done well to protect it in a second half bereft of clear scoring chances both sides.

The Brazilians could so easily have gone to the break having scored much more than the Mokoena strike, although the hosts also had their opportunities.

Though they started the match tentatively, Sundowns quickly strove to boss the match and were the ones making inroads into the Pyramids danger zone early in the tie. Captain Themba Zwanme had a chance on the quarter-hour mark when he brought the ball down well and looked to control it only to be blocked before he could shoot.

Two minutes later, however, the Pyramids goalkeeper Ahmed Mayhoub was fetching the ball from inside the net following a trade-mark Mokoena goal from range.

A good attack ended with Lucas Ribeiro in possession on the edge of the box but as he tried to work his way in, the Brazilian found his way blocked by a cluster of defenders in sky blue. Ribeiro unselfishly turned back and laid the ball on to the Mokoena’s path and the midfielder being never one to wait for a second invitation smashed the ball first time, hard and low for the opening goal.

The strike shook the home side into action and on 23 minutes Grant Kekana made a vital defensive block as Pyramids looked to restore parity. They made yet another attempt four minutes later but this time they found Ronwen Williams impenetrable. The goalkeeper later denied Fiston Mayele, Williams plucking the ball out of the air following the DR Congo striker’s header.

Sundowns were dealt a heavy blow late in the half when Mokoena had to be substituted for Bongani Zungu due to an injury

They did not seem to be too heavily affected though as Rulani Mokwena’s men still made inroads into the Pyramids area and could have scored twice before the break. On 40 minutes they built from the back and then a quick change of pace saw them attacking via Marcelo Allende who shared the ball with Peter Shalulile. The Namibian gave it to Ribeiro whose attempt was deflected away for a corner.

A little later Zwane had his attempt from close range save by Mayhoub before he gave possession away on the other end and had his blushes saved as the blocked the ball for a corner.

The second half was a see-saw battle with Pyramids trying to get the equaliser while Sundowns strived to not only protect their lead but to also add to their goal.

But no net bulged and at the end Sundowns registered a crucial victory that will see them going into the last two matches after the Africa Cup of Nations finals break confident of getting the results that will see them make the knockout phase as they search for a second success following hat one from back in 2016.

IOL Sport