Pretoria, South Africa | AFP |
Denis Onyango’s South African club Mamelodi Sundowns reached the CAF Champions League final on Saturday — five months after being eliminated from the competition.
The Pretoria side popularly known as the ‘Brazilians’ defeated ZESCO United of Zambia 2-0 at home to qualify 3-2 on aggregate for the final against Zamalek of Egypt.
Liberian Anthony Laffor gave the 2001 Champions League runners-up an early lead at Lucas ‘Masterpieces’ Moripe Stadium and Percy Tau notched the second goal midway through the second half.
Reaching the final marks a remarkable turnaround for Sundowns after they were knocked out in the final qualifying round for the group stage by V Club of the Democratic Republic of Congo last April.
Just hours before the mini-league draw was made in Cairo, however, the Kinshasa outfit were kicked out of the premier African club football competition for fielding a suspended player.
Reinstated Sundowns made the most of the lucky break to top a group including Zamalek and Enyimba of Nigeria. The fourth team, Entente Setif of Algeria, were banned after crowd trouble in their opening group game.
Many Sundowns players had to hastily cancel holidays as the start of the Champions League group phase coincided with the South African close season.
Coach Pitso Mosimane, a former national team striker, scrapped plans to watch the centenary edition of the Copa America tournament in the United States.
He made two changes for the second leg of the semi-final, including starting with talented but temperamental Laffor.
The decision paid off after only five minutes on a perfect night for football as the Liberian pounced on a weak headed clearance and slammed the ball into the net.
ZESCO had chances to level, notably when two-goal first-leg star Jackson Mwanza broke through the middle only to see a lob over Ugandan goalkeeper Denis Onyango land on the roof of the net.
Tau struck with 64 minutes gone, nodding a cross past goalkeeper and captain Jacob Banda from close range while centre-backs David Odhiambo and Ben Adama Banh expected an offside call.
Those who watched the match included Patrice Motsepe, a mining magnate who bankrolls Sundowns.
Football: CAF Champions League semi-final results – 1st update
Results: Fbl | Afr | C1
Pretoria, South Africa | AFP | Saturday 9/25/2016 – 01:12 GMT+3 | 83 words
Updated CAF Champions League semi-final, second-leg results Saturday
Mamelodi Sundowns (RSA) 2 (Laffor 5, Tau 64) ZESCO Utd (ZAM) 0
Sundowns win 3-2 on aggregate
Wydad Casablanca (MAR) 5 (Jebor 12, 45+2, El Haddad 19, Ondama 56, 64-pen) Zamalek (EGY) 2 (Morsy 35, Ohawuchi 82)
Zamalek win 6-5 on aggregate
Sundowns v Zamalek
At Cairo or Alexandria
Zamalek v Sundowns
Note; champions qualify for FIFA Club World Cup in Japan during December