South Africa’s Sun­downs one point away from CAF semi-fi­nals

The Myanmar Times - - Sport -

MAMELODI Sun­downs of South Africa can con­tinue an amaz­ing four­month tran­si­tion from flops to tops if they avoid de­feat at home to Za­malek of Egypt to­day in the CAF Cham­pi­ons League.

One point at Lu­cas “Mas­ter­pieces” Moripe Sta­dium near Pre­to­ria will suf­fice to seal first place in Group B and take the South African side to the semi­fi­nals of the premier African club foot­ball com­pe­ti­tion.

It will also com­plete a re­mark­able turn­around for Sun­downs, who were elim­i­nated in the fi­nal qual­i­fy­ing round for the Cham­pi­ons League last April by V Club from the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo.

De­moted to the sec­ond-tier CAF Con­fed­er­a­tion Cup, Sun­downs were then beaten by Medeama of Ghana in a play-off in a fur­ther disappointment.

But on the eve of June draw for the Cham­pi­ons League groups, the or­gan­is­ers kicked out V Club for us­ing a banned player and Sun­downs were re­in­stated.

Given a third chance to suc­ceed in Africa, Sun­downs shocked En­tente Setif in Al­ge­ria only to have the 2-0 win scrapped when the losers were dis­qual­i­fied over a pitch invasion.

Undis­mayed, Sun­downs beat twice-cham­pi­ons Eny­imba of Nige­ria and five-time cham­pi­ons Za­malek to build a three-point lead half­way through the group stage.

“We hope we do not have to wake up from this dream,” said former na­tional team striker and coach Mosi­mane ahead of the clash with Za­malek.

“I think we have found a way of play­ing suc­cess­fully against north African op­po­nents and mak­ing it dif­fi­cult for them to beat us.

“It is won­der­ful to watch my team play­ing with such en­joy­ment and fear­less­ness. Our men­tal ap­proach has been a key fac­tor.”

Za­malek will be miss­ing in­jured mid­fielder Mo­hamed Ibrahim, who scored in the 2-1 de­feat by Sun­downs, but are likely semi­fi­nal­ists what­ever the Pre­to­ria re­sult, as they host Eny­imba next month.

Wy­dad Casablanca of Morocco and Zesco United of Zam­bia will also se­cure semi-fi­nals places from Group A if both win.

The Moroc­cans host bot­tom-ofthe-ta­ble Al Ahly of Egypt, win­ners of the com­pe­ti­tion a record eight times, while the Zam­bians are away to ASEC Mi­mosas of the Ivory Coast.

Ahly have man­aged just one point from a pos­si­ble nine un­der Nether­lands-born former Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur man­ager Martin Jol with goal­keep­ing blun­ders and a goal-shy at­tack prov­ing costly.

Wy­dad have re­warded coach John Toshack, the ex-Wales striker and man­ager, for a good CAF run with a two-year ex­ten­sion to his con­tract un­til June 2018.

They top the ta­ble with seven points, while Zesco have six, ASEC three and Ahly just one.

Toshack will hope for a re­turn to form by lead­ing scorer Reda Ha­jhouj, who av­er­aged a goal a game in six qualifiers only to fire three blanks in group matches.

ASEC must im­prove a dis­mal CAF home record this sea­son of one win in four matches to beat Zesco and get back into con­tention for a last-four place. –

Photo: AFP

Sun­downs play­ers cel­e­brate af­ter scor­ing against Za­malek on July 17 in Cairo, Egypt.

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