The Sunday Mail
HOLDERS Wydad Casablanca trumped Mamelodi Sundowns on the away goals rule at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium yesterday to advance into the final of the CAF Champions League.
The semi-final, second-leg match ended 2-2 on the day (and 2-2 on aggregate), but the Moroccan side took the tie on away goals and will have the chance to defend their African crown in the final next month.
It will be a repeat of last year’s final as they face Egyptian giants Al Ahly.
Sundowns created most of the early running and had their first notable effort on goal in the 14th minute, with Themba Zwane teeing up Teboho Mokoena to shoot on target from a tight angle, but Wydad goalkeeper Youssef El Motie made a comfortable save.
Wydad looked a potent threat on the counter and on 19 minutes Mohammed Ounajem ran onto a long ball over the defence and only a last-gasp challenge from Abdelmounaim Boutouil prevented him from sending a shot beyond goalkeeper Ronwen Williams.
Sundowns dialled up the attacking pressure and midway through the first half Aubrey Modiba’s pull-back from the left by-line picked out an unmarked Peter Shalulile — his low shot looked destined for the corner of the net, but El Motie made an excellent one-handed save.
Shalulile also missed out on a chance when he sprung the offside trap a few minutes later, but was unable to get the better of the goalkeeper at close range, with the Moroccan side then choosing to sit a little deeper in defence and try to weather the attacking storm.
On 38 minutes, Mokoena fired over the crossbar with an effort direct from a free-kick, while Sundowns needed Williams to make a couple of notable interventions at set-pieces, with the first half ending at 0-0.
The Brazilians started the second half strongly and were rewarded with a goal in the 50th minute. The hosts pressed high up the pitch and Zwane was able to secure a loose ball on the edge of the penalty area before whipping a curling effort beyond El Motie’s left hand for 1-0.
The hosts almost doubled their advantage shortly after the hour mark via a brilliant turn and shot from Shalulile, but El Motie made another fine stop to keep his side in the contest.
And Wydad soon demonstrated the threat of scoring an away goal, with notable attacking moments for Bouly Sambou and Zouheri El Moutaraji, while the 70th minute brought another huge chance for the latter player, as he broke free down the left of the penalty area, but he was denied one-on-one by a superb save from Williams.
Yet the ‘Downs keeper could do nothing to prevent an equaliser from Ayoub El Amloud in the 72nd minute, as the right-back arrived late in the box to head home Yahya Jabrane’s pin-point diagonal ball from the left.
If Sundowns were stunned by Wydad’s leveller, they did not show it and patiently built more attacking pressure before a second goal arrived in the 79th minute, with Shalulile sweeping home (via a deflection) a low cross from Thapelo Morena for 2-1.
Yet the drama was far from over, as Wydad’s set-piece threat forced another equalising goal: Yahia Attiyat Allah’s in-swinging free-kick from the right flank was headed into his own net by Mothobi Mvala for 2-2 in the 83rd minute. That unfortunate own goal proved to be the decisive moment of the tie, with Wydad able to hold out through the remainder of the match and set up a showdown with Al Ahly in the two-legged final, with the matches set for June 4 and 11.
Earlier on Friday night, Al Ahly advanced to their fourth consecutive Champions League final, following their 4-0 aggregate victory over Esperance du Tunis at the Cairo International Stadium. — supersport.com.