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Thapelo Maseko scores only goal of the game as Sundowns beat Al Ahly in first leg of AFL semi-final

Mamelodi Sundowns’ Thapelo Maseko celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during their African Football League match against Al Ahly

Mamelodi Sundowns’ Thapelo Maseko celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during their African Football League match against Al Ahly at Loftus Versfeld in Tshwane on Sunday. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

Published Oct 29, 2023


Thapelo Maseko’s solo goal guided Mamelodi Sundowns to an invaluable win over Al Ahly in the African Football League (AFL) first leg semi-final on Sunday afternoon.

The Brazilians beat their North African rivals at Loftus Versfeld to take a huge morale booster into the return leg in Cairo on Wednesday night.

A win for Sundowns there would see them reach the final of the inaugural AFL, where they'd face either Esperance or Wydad Casablanca.

Maseko scored the all-important goal of the game tonight, but Sundowns should have won by a greater margin if they had turned their possession into goals.

So now with Sundowns only leading by slender advantage, Al Ahly will fancy their chances in their return leg as the match will be played under suitable conditions: at night.

Sure, Sundowns failed to repeat the 5-2 drubbing of the Red Devils earlier in the year in the Champions League, but they had to be at their best tonight.

The humid weather conditions favoured the visitors as Sundowns’ ploy to play this game during the day and not at night to exert heat on Al Ahly was notwithstanding.

And that’s not all. Sundowns were playing without a traditional No 9 as the duo of Peter Shalulile and Lucas Ribeiro were out injured.

But the Brazilians proved that they can adapt to any conditions — weather or different approach — as they were unfortunate not to head to the break with the lead.

It was an impressive half from Sundowns that Al Ahly’s Percy Tau was left frustrated for his homecoming as he didn’t get supply as he’d have wanted to.

Sure, Sundowns didn’t have an out-and-out striker but the speed of Maseko kept the visitors’ defence on their toes as he could cut from the middle or the wings.

Before scoring a screamer in the second half, Maseko’s first effort sailed across the face of Mohammed El Shenawy’s goal in the opening stages of the first half.

Maseko was even more unfortunate when his goal-bound header was parried away by El Shenawy, having done well to position himself and get at the end of Teboho Mokoena’s cross.

But while that was the big chance of the half, Themba Zwane also had a chance to score but his first touch inside the box let him down as El Shenawy easily collected the loose ball.

Having dominated the first half, Sundowns had to turn their possession into goals in the second if they were to win and take an advantage to Cairo.

They seemed to heed that call in the early stages of the half as Aubrey Modiba drilled a hard and low shot which had El Shenawy worried — but sailed wide of the target.

After that shot it took a while for Sundowns to trouble El Shenawy. And when they did, Maseko did so in style, unleashing a curling thunderbolt that beat the latter.

Rivaldo Coetzee also teased El Shenawy with a flicked effort that flashed across the face of goal as Sundowns seemed hellbent to wrap the tie in the first leg.

In the end, though, Maseko’s goal was the difference between the two teams for now — there’s still a lot to play for in Cairo on Wednesday night.

IOL Sport