South African club Mamelodi Sundowns claimed a vital 1-0 home win over Al Ahly of Egypt in the first leg of their African Football League (AFL) semi-final in Pretoria on Sunday.
A Thapelo Maseko’s second-half long-range strike in the 52nd minute won the tie for the South Africans, who dominated proceedings against the Egyptian giants at Loftus Versfeld Stadium.
The Egyptians would fancy their chances in the second leg tie as they prepare to welcome Sundowns to their intimidating Cairo fortress on Wednesday, November 1.
“We have a chance to qualify and I believe the Cairo match will decide everything. We will make every effort to win, especially since our fans will support us,” Al Ahly Swiss coach, Marcel Kohler, said after the match.
Similarly, a second-half goal from Hicham Bousfiane earned Wydad Casablanca of Morocco a 1-0 home victory over Tunisian side Esperance in the first leg of their AFL semi-final. Bousfiane scored the lone goal just before the hour mark at Stade Mohamed V as Wydad claimed a slender advantage to take into Wednesday’s return fixture in Tunis.
Like Al Ahly of Egypt, four-time African champions Esperance will still fancy their chances of overturning the deficit on home soil (the Stade Olympique de Rades) on Wednesday.
Esperance coach Tarek Thabet remains confident that his team will progress to the final.
“Wydad were better than us in the second period when they scored. But we tried to come back after they scored. Our players gave a strong performance. There is still the second leg in Tunisia and we can repeat the scenario against TP Mazembe,” he said, citing their quarter-final comeback win.
The African Football League (AFL)
The AFL is Africa’s new elite club competition featuring eight of the strongest teams from different regions battling in a knockout format. The 16-game tournament culminating in a two-legged final will hand $4 million prize money to the champions.
In an ambitious attempt by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) to transform and modernize club football across the continent, CAF and FIFA announced plans in February 2020, for the AFL to provide a new pan-African club platform and change the face of the sport in Africa.
The eight AFL participants were selected based on club rankings from North, Central-West and South-East Africa. They are Egyptian giants Al Ahly, who have won a record 11 CAF Champions League titles; fellow North African clubs, Wydad Casablanca of Morocco and Tunisia’s Esperance boasting nine titles between them; and DR Congo’s five-time champions TP Mazembe.
Completing the lineup for the inaugural AFL are two-time CAF Champions League winners, South Africa’s Mamelodi Sundowns; Nigeria’s Enyimba FC, Atletico Petroleos de Luanda of Angola and Simba SC of Tanzania.
The winners of the African Football League will receive prize money of $4 Million, while the runner-up will get $3 Million.
The two semi-finalists will each get $1.7 Million, while the quarter-finalists will each get $1 Million.