Sundowns crowned African champs

FBL-AFR-C1-ZAMALEK-MAMELODI SUNDOWNSMamelodi Sundowns won a fairytale first CAF Champions League title on Sunday despite a 1-0 second-leg loss to Zamalek of Egypt in Alexandria.

A Stanley Ohawuchi goal on 64 minutes was not enough for the home team as they trailed by three goals from the first leg in Pretoria last weekend and lost 3-1 on aggregate.

It was a remarkable triumph because the South Africans were eliminated in the final qualifying round in April only to be reinstated when their Democratic Republic of Congo opponents were disqualified.

Success for Sundowns made them $1.5 million richer and secured a place at the Fifa Club World Cup in Japan during December.

“It was an amazing journey of ups and downs and now we are the champions of Africa,” said Sundowns’ Zimbabwe striker Khama Billiat.

“We look forward to Japan and facing the best clubs in the game. It is going to be an absolute pleasure.”

Winger Keagan Dolly said: “We knew it was going to be difficult because Zamalek are a great team with some outstanding individuals.

“Some people will say we were lucky to get a second chance after being eliminated, but I believe we deserve to be African champions.”

Goalkeeper Ahmed El Shenawy and captain and midfielder “Shikabala” were among those dropped as Zamalek coach Moamen Soliman made four changes from the side that started the first leg.

Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane had to make one enforced alteration with huge Ivorian centre-back Bangaly Soumahoro coming in for suspended Wayne Arendse.

Although facing a mammoth task, history offered a hope to Zamalek with two of three previous Champions League finalists in a similar predicament emerging as overall winners.

An estimated 60,000 predominantly Zamalek supporters were inside the 86 000-capacity Borg El Arab Stadium on the outskirts of Alexandria as the match kicked off.

There are few more nerve-inducing factors in African football than a large Egyptian crowd roaring on their team, but Sundowns calmly survived early pressure. – AFP

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