Sundowns played to a 1-1 draw in Omdurman and kept their spot at the top of the mini log in Group B in a match that was engulfed by conspiracy claims levelled against Sundowns.
The result in Omdurman means that Sundowns win their CAFCL group for the fourth consecutive time, a huge statement for the Tshwane side if they were to consider themselves a force to be reckoned with on the continent; but left a huge battle in the hands of Al Hilal and Al Ahly to fight for second spot.
Hilal had a last-minute penalty saved by goalkeeper Ronwen Williams which could have eliminated Al Ahly from the competition. Williams, whose mistake in the 76th minute allowed Mohammed Abdulrahman to cancel Khuliso Mudau’s 67th-minute opener fuelled the allegations made in the Egyptian media.
Mokwena, who is in his first season as solo head coach at Sundowns, has a daunting task on his shoulders to overcome a quarter-final hoodoo that has seen Sundowns fail to progress since 2018/19 CAFCL season. Ahly eliminated Sundowns at the quarter-final stage in 2019/20 and 2020/21 seasons of the Champions League.
When asked during post-match presser, Mokwena refused to comment on allegations made by media regarding Sundowns helping Hilal eliminate Ahly in the champions league before the match. “I don’t respond to the media [about allegations]. The talk is on the pitch and we try to win on the pitch.”
There were several comments from some journalists from Egypt suggesting Sundowns would sabotage Al Ahly and lose the match. “Firstly, I’m not paid to judge any team,” Mokwena told the media. “I try to judge my team and before I judge my team, I judge myself. I ask myself, ‘did I do everything possible to win the game?’ So we didn’t win the game and that’s [the blame] on me.”
Sundowns will end the group stages with a home fixture against already eliminated Cameroon side Coton Sport whilst Al Ahly and Al Hilal will square up in Cairo in a winner takes all affair on the 31st of March.