Pretoria stalemate sends Ahly into last four

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Egyptian giants Al Ahly booked their place at the last four after a one-all draw with South Africa’s Mamelodi Sundowns in their second leg quarter-final on Saturday in Pretoria.

The result ensured Ahly progress 3-1 on aggregate, joining fellows Zamalek in the semis of the premier continental club championship.

It was a sweet revenge for the Red Devils after falling to the Brazilians at the same stage last season.

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Sundowns got off the better side and their quest for an early goal nearly materialized after four minutes but Ahly goalkeeper Mohamed El Shenawy was to his side’s rescue denying Ricardo Nascimento from close range. From a free-kick, Sundowns captain Hlompho Kekana deceived the Ahly human wall by squaring to Nascimento, whose effort was saved by Shenawy.

Uruguayan Gaston Sirino gave the Ahly defence much to worry with his marauding runs from both wings.

Ahly coach Rene Weiler surprisingly handed starting roles to new recruit Aliou Badji and Angolan Geraldo, teaming up with Junior Ajayi upfront.

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On 21 minutes, left-back Ali Maaloul whose brace made the difference in the first leg last week in Cairo was on hand to haunt Sundowns again as his free-kick was deflected by Lebohang Maboe into his own net for the opener.

The goal made the tie a mountain for Sundowns, as they needed to score at least four answered goals to survive the Egyptians.

Six minutes later, the Brazilians restored parity courtesy Sirino, with an easy tap after Shenawy had spilled Thema Zwane’s shot his path.

The goal served a huge boost for Sundowns but still found no way as the Ahly backline remained resolute.

The homers maintained the momentum in the second half, coming close a couple of times but lacked the cutting edge upfront.

On 57 minutes, Shenawy was again to Ahly’s rescue diving his full to parry Sibusiso Vilakazi’s long range effort to dismay of the yellow faithful.

Ahly coach Weiler went defensive pulling out Mahmoud Metwaly and Badji for Mohamed Hany and Ayman Ashraf respectively, and it did work as Sundowns’ efforts failed to yield dividends.

Zwane and Sirino had chances to score but failed as Ahly held on to book their place at the last four, where they will face either Tunisia’s Etoile du Sahel or Wydad Athletic Club of Morocco.