17 September 2017 09:55
A doubt for most of the week, striker Yannick Zakri showed just why Mamelodi Sundowns needed him, scoring a 70th minute winner as the holders beat Wydad Athletic Club of Morocco 1-0 in the quarter final first leg on Sunday in Pretoria.
Zakri came on at the beginning of the second half in the place of Sibusiso Vilakazi, with his goal a massive return on investment since his move from Ivorian giants, ASEC Mimosas last year.
Although the day didn't initially pan out the way Sundowns had hoped, their first home win since the group stages will be something that will excite coach Pitso Mosimane.
The first half gave a gloomy picture of how the day would end up, with both teams failing to create any clear scoring chances.
The two teams went into the break with Sundowns aware that only goals will give them advantage heading into the second leg. Percy Tau tried Wydad keeper Zouhair Laaroubi for the first time on the 50th minute, with his effort sailing over the crossbar.
Thapelo Morena started another move in the 54th minute, with his effort coming of a pile of Wydad defenders. Three minutes later, Tau got into the thick of things, shooting narrowly wide off goal after a good build up from the middle of the park.
Morena once again proved to be a handful down the right flank, setting up Zakri, whose effort was deflected for a corner that was wasted by the homers.
Tau would have almost make amends in the 66th minute, floating a delightful free kick into the box, but Wayne Arendse wasn't alert as the ball came off him and into the hands of the Laaroubi.
Almost a minute later, Sundowns continued to attack, with Leonardo Castro bringing the ball down with his chest, but his left-footed volley went over the bar.
With another corner straight after, Zakri tucked home from a goalmouth scramble on 71 minutes for the match winner.
The main architect on the day, Themba Zwane, kept probing and on the 76th minute laid to Hlompho Kekana, whose long-range effort failed to hit the target.
Meanwhile, the ‘Brazilians’ are expected to jet out for Rabat tonight for the return clash Sundowns due for next Saturday (23 September 2017).
In the other quarter final match played in the Egyptian city of Alexandria, Ahly Tripoli of Libya settled for a barren stalemate with Tunisia’s Etoile du Sahel. The visiting Tunisians finished the game with ten men after Brazilian-import Diogo Acosta was given the marching off order five minutes before the break.
The Mediterranean resort city of Sousse host the second leg on Sunday, 24 September 2017, with the winner after both legs facing either Esperance of Tunisia or record winners, Al Ahly of Egypt at the last four.
16.09.2017 Alexandria Al Ahly (Egypt) 2-2 Esperance (Tunisia)
16.09.2017 Beira Ferroviario da Beira (Mozambique) 1-1 USM Alger (Algeria)
17.09.2017 Alexandria Ahly Tripoli (Libya) 0-0 Etoile du Sahel (Tunisia)
17.09.2017 Pretoria Sundowns (South Africa) 1-0 Wydad (Morocco)