Deja vu as Downs, Wydad ready for CAF semifinal

Following an impressive quarterfinal two-legged display against CR Belouizdad, Mamelodi Sundowns will once again butt heads with reigning champions Wydad Athletic in the CAF Champions League semifinals.

Sundowns beat Belouizdad 2-1 (6-2 aggregate) during their second leg clash at the Loftus Versfeld yesterday afternoon, while Wydad advanced at the expense of brave Tanzanian outfit Simba when they edged past them 4-3 on penalties after the game ended 1-0 (1-1 on aggregate) in extra-time in front of a hostile crowd in Casablanca on Friday night.

Masandawana went into the game already with one foot in the semifinals following their comfortable 4-1 first-leg advantage, with the visitors needing nothing less than a 4-0 victory to go through to the next round.

Belouizdad captain Sofiane Bouchar gave his side the lead when he found the back of the net in the 24th minute through a well-worked corner.

The Video Assistant Referee (VAR) was called to action when striker Peter Shalulile was brought down by defender Chouhaib Keddad, but after consulting the screen, the referee Abdel Bouh made an offside call against Shalulile.

Right at the stroke of half-time, captain fantastic Themba Zwane struck and found the near post after some good combination play with Aubrey Modiba and Khuliso Mudau.

Moments after the break, the Brazilians picked up from where they left off and got their second goal of the match when Thapelo Morena was set up by Mudau with a lovely cross and marched on to the semifinals for the first time after three attempts.

Sundowns head coach Rulani Mokwena said his troops will swiftly shift their focus to the next match and quickly forget about their previous result.

“The players look for me, and when the players look for me, they have to find a consistent coach,” Mokwena said.

“When we win, draw, or lose, I say next match … so from day one we try as best as possible to say [focus on the] next match.

“Our energies and focus are on the next, and that is the most important match.”

Despite their recent struggles against North African sides since they last won the competition in 2016, this season, the DStv Premiership champions held their own when they drew 2-2 against rivals Al Ahly in Cairo and walloped Belouizdad 4-1 in Algeria last week.

Masandawana will undoubtably be licking their lips and plotting their revenge against the Moroccans, who knocked them out to progress to the semifinals in 2017 after beating them 3-2 on penalties (1-1 on aggregate) in their bid to retain their maiden Champions League title that they won in 2016.

It will be a moment of deja vu between the two giants as Sundowns will aim to end Wydad’s efforts to retain their title, while the North Africans will look to end Masandawana’s journey once again in the elite African cup competition.

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