Record African champions Al Ahly will look to overturn a slim 1-0 deficit against South Africa’s Mamelodi Sundowns in Wednesday evening’s return fixture of the African Football League (AFL) semi-finals in Cairo.
The Red Devils suffered a 1-0 defeat in the first leg in Pretoria over the weekend and have their work cut out, to earn an outright win of more than two goals at home to make into the first ever AFL final.
Ahly have a relatively good record against Masandawana in Cairo as they have only lost once at home, a 1-0 defeat in the group phase of the 2021-22 CAF Champions League. The only other time Sundowns have managed a point from Cairo was in the return tie of last season’s group phase, when they drew 2-2.
In four previous meetings, Ahly has clinched victory. They hope they continue with this run when they meet up in a lucrative clash.
Head coach Marcel Koller whose side is yet to win a match in the AFL, says his side will be up for battle to ensure they progress to the final. They earned a place in the semis on the away goal rule after a 3-3 aggregate draw with Tanzania’s Simba.
“The game in Cairo will be crucial, and we will give it our all. There is still a good chance for us,” Koller said after his team’s defeat in Pretoria.
He will need his side’s forward line to be sharp, and the effectiveness of Mahmoud Kahraba and Percy tau up top will be crucial if they are to battle for a ticket to the final.
Meanwhile, Sundowns will not travel to Cairo with their hands in their backs and will be up to give their all. Coach Rulani Mokwena has expressed confidence that his charges will finish off the job in Cairo and mirror the results of their last two trips to the Egyptian capital.
“We have got a goal in Cairo, we know that and Al Ahly knows that too, and it stresses them a lot. The message that they have got is they know Sundowns can score in Cairo,” coach Mokwena said.
He added; “You could see the frustration on the players when they walked off the pitch, because I would presume that the first thing they will have in mind is that Sundowns must not score an away goal. Let’s see what happens, it’s only half time. I think this will be an interesting game, but as I said, I think they also know that Sundowns has a goal in Cairo, if not two.”
A draw will be enough to send Sundowns to the final. If the South Africans score one goal in Cairo, then Ahly will need to score at least three more to overturn the result.