Mamelodi Sundowns Win Africa’s Prestigious Trophy
Mamelodi Sundowns are 2016 CAF Champions League winners. The South African club won their first ever historical club continental championship, despite a 1-0 second-leg loss to Zamalek of Egypt in Alexandria. But a 3-0 win in the first leg, in Pretoria, South Africa, gave Sundowns a comfortable advantage over Zamalek.
Stanley Ohawuchi of Zamalek scored 62 minutes into the game, but the goal came in too late against a side whose victory was only a few minutes away. The game ended 3-1 aggregate in favor of Sundowns.
Sundowns maintained calm and composure in front of a dominating Egyptian crowd that outnumbered in spectators, as they cheered their team on in hopes of winning a sixth title.
It is estimated that 60,000 Zamalek supporters filled the 86,000-capacity Borg El Arab Stadium on the outskirts of Alexandria, after it was thought that the crowd would be restricted to 20,000 for security reasons.
In addition, while Zamalek desperately searched for an early goal in hopes of a comeback, a strong Sundown side maintained solid resistance against the Egyptian side.
“It was an amazing journey of ups and down and now we are the champions of Africa,” said Sundowns’ Zimbabwe striker, Khama Billiat.
[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”We look forward to Japan and facing the best clubs in the game. It is going to be an absolute pleasure,”[/perfectpullquote]
Billiat was a threat for Sundowns with a first-time team effort in the fifth minute, but ended up striking the ball over Zamalek’s goal post. Percy Tau and Anthony Laffor were also contributing threats for the South African side.
Ugandan goalkeeper, Denis Onyango, had to retire early in the game after Ohawuchi’s missed attempt on goal led to a collision, injuring his ankle in the process.
Back up goal keeper, Wayne Sandilands, had to come on after 28 minutes to sub an injured Onyango but needed to make a near post dive to save a forceful shot from Zamalek captain, Ahmed Tawfik, 15 minutes later.
Initially, Sundowns were eliminated in the final qualifying round in April, but got a second chance when DR Congo side, AS Vita Club, was disqualified for fielding an ineligible player in the preliminary rounds. The opportunity was well rewarded.
However, a previous encounter with Zamalek might have predicted the finals result. Sundowns beat Zamalek twice in 2016 in the group stages of the African Champions league – 2-1 away in Cairo and a won 1-0 later at home.
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.”
Sundowns take home $1.5 million and qualify for the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan, in December. The last time Sundowns came near to winning the African Champions League was in 2001 when they lost to Al Ahly who are also rivaled opponents of Zamalek.
They are the second South African side to win the championship after Orlando Pirates won it in 1995.
Featured Photo: Mamelodi Sundowns lift Africa’s prestigious club trophy (Getty Images)