Mamelodi Sundowns held on for a 0-0 draw against Al Ahly in Cairo on Wednesday night, as they made it to the final of the inaugural edition of the African Football League (AFL) with a 1-0 aggregate win over the Egyptian giants in the semi-finals.
Goalkeeper Ronwen Williams came off big once again, saving a first half penalty, in a match that Sundowns once again had to finish with 10 men. Junior Mendietta was given his marching orders six minutes from time, but Masandawana held on for the vital draw to book a slot against Wydad Athletic Club in the final.
Ahly came into the tie trailing by a single goal from the first leg, and they needed a win of more than two goals at the Cairo International Stadium to overturn the deficit.
They were handed a massive chance to do so after just eight minutes when keeper Williams was adjudged to have fouled Percy Tau inside the box. The shot stopper however made amends, with a brilliant save to deny Ali Maaloul from the spot.
It was a heartbreaking stat for Ahly, but they kept fighting nonetheless. Sundowns were saved by the woodwork in the 25th minute when Williams dropped a cross. Abdelmounaim Boutouil thumped the ball to clear but it was blocked by Mahmoud Kahraba, with the ball bouncing off the upright and cleared away again.
Two minutes later, Williams dropped yet another cross, and it was Kahraba again who pounced, but it was blocked from close range once again.
Sundowns were patient, knowing only too well opening up the game will give Ahly a chance to come back. They played compact and were quick to regroup when they lost the ball.
In the second half, the home side added more pressure, but they couldn’t find a way to break the resolute Sundowns backline.
With six minutes to play, Mendietta’s studs-up challenge earned him a red card, and a massive numerical advantage to Ahly. However, the Red Devils failed to make the most of it. In the second minute of added time though, there was some moment of drama when VAR intervened for a suspected handball, but after visiting the pitch-side monitor, the referee didn’t give a penalty.
Sundowns defended with their lives, living on the edge to see out the barren result and make the final of the AFL.