Cassius Mailula’s strike was all Mamelodi Sundowns needed to beat 10-man Al- Hilal in their first outing in the Group stage of the 2022/23 CAF Champions League this Saturday.
The left Pretoria empty handed after a game they finished with ten men following the sending off of defender Altayeb Abaker for a second bookable offense minutes before the end.
Rulani Mokoena named a completely changed side from their last league outing, bringing in the established first team players and earned the reward against a tough opponent.
The Brazilians scored midway into the first-half of the game at Loftus Versfeld Stadium and held on to the end.
Incoming Ronwen Williams in goal for Downs made the first save of the game barely nine minutes after the start.
The South Africans took control of the game and created a number of chances through which Neo Maema and Peter Shalulile came close but poor finishing was their undoing.
A good run from deep in midfield was completed by a shot from Sphelele Mkhulise which was poorly dealt with by Ali Aboeshren. The keeper played the ball directly into the path of Cassius Mailula who made it 1-0.
Peter Shalulile was very close to making it 2-0 when he found space and time to turn in the box after receiving the ball. Unfortunately his shot was well read and saved by Ali of Al Hilal.
Sundowns put the ball in the back of the net two minutes after the restart, but the goal was chalked off though replays suggested it should have stood.
Shalulile came close to making it 2-0 after Maema picked him with a fine cross but he failed to sort his feet in time, allowing Ali to gather.
Coach Florent Ibenge’s Al Hilal pushed to get the equalizer in the last quarter but all efforts proved abortive, instead Altayeb Abaker in the 87th minute.
Downs fans celebrated in the end as their side recorded a first win in Group C ahead of their next assignment away to Cotonsport next Friday in Garoua.
Cotonsport and Al Ahly complete the group. Both didn’t honor their own match day one fixture because the Egyptians are in Morocco for the club World Cup.
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