Mamelodi Sundowns set up a fascinating clash with their perennial rivals Al Ahly in the semi-final of the inaugural African Football League (AFL) after beating Petro Atletico de Luanda 2-0 on aggregate.
The Brazilians drew 0-0 on Tuesday night despite playing a significant part of the second leg, first round tie at Loftus Versfeld to progress via the two goals they scored in their victorious trip to Luanda last weekend.
Rulani Mokwena’s men found themselves a man down as early as the fourth minute after their defender Mothobi Mvala was sent off for a last defender foul on the dangerous Brazilian striker Tiago Azulao.
Not that you’d have noticed they were at a numerical disadvantage, Sundowns holding their own and managing to keep the Angolan visitors at bay for the entire match, restricting them to a single shot on target which came late on via substitute Gilberyto.
There wer half opportunities in the first half, one of those falling for Azulao just before the half-time whistle when he freely connected with a cross but the striker who recently scored his 150th goal for Petro directed his header wide of goal.
Sundowns had a couple of first half attempts at goal via Teboho Mokoena and Gaston Sirino, the latter’s shot from close range being saved by goalkeeper Hugo Marques.
In the second half, it was Petro who expectedly tried to make things happen but they just did not have the cutting edge to sending Rownen Williams scooping the ball from his own net- the South African international making a few routine saves.
Gaston Sirino shot over on 59 minutes before Khuliso Mudau made a timely interception to render a Petro attack ineffective. Then late in the game, Junior Mendieta forced a save out of Marques as Sundowns looked to pull off what would have been a super win for a side that was a man down.
Having won the first leg 2-0 via goals by Marcelo Allende and substitute Thapelo Maseko, the Brazilians simply needed to protect that lead to progress to the semifinals. And despite playing most of the match a man short, Mokwena’s team did exactly that as they controlled the game with their possession play against a Petro side that just could not find their rhythm.
They now have a date with their perennial adversaries Al Ahly whom they take on in the first leg in Cairo on Sunday before they host them next Tuesday. The Red Devils made it to the semis via an away-goals rule victory over Tanzania’s Simba SC following a 3-3 aggregate draw.
It is the kind of result that would give Sundowns confidence that they can cget the better of Al Ahly yet again after they embarrassed them in the CAF Champions League earlier this year via a 2-2 draw and a 5-2 victory. But you can bet, Ahly wlould have revenge in mind when the two sides clash twice in the next week.