Sundowns, Wydad squeeze into African Football League final

Thursday November 02 2023

Mamelodi Sundown teammates celebrates after scoring a goal during the African Football League semi-final first leg match against Al Ahly at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria, South Africa on October 29, 2023. PHOTO | AFP


Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa and Wydad Casablanca of Morocco reached the inaugural African Football League final after gripping semi-final second legs on Wednesday.

Sundowns goalkeeper Ronwen Williams saved a penalty and Egyptian side Al Ahly struck the woodwork in a 0-0 draw in Cairo that gave the club from Pretoria a 1-0 aggregate victory.

In Rades, Esperance of Tunisia edged Wydad 1-0 on the night through a Rodrigo Rodrigues goal, but he had his penalty saved in a shoot-out, which the Moroccans won 5-4 after a 1-1 aggregate draw.

Wydad will have home advantage on Sunday in the first leg of a final offering four million dollars to the winners, with the return match on November 11.

Read: Simba SC fail to reach AFL semis on away goals

The showdown will be a repeat of a 2023 CAF Champions League semi-final, which the Casablanca club won on away goals after two draws.


In Cairo, record 11-time Champions League titleholders Ahly were given an early scoring chance when Williams fouled former Sundowns star Percy Tau and the referee pointed to the spot.

After a lengthy delay while Sundowns protested the decision, veteran Tunisian Ali Maaloul saw his low kick pushed away by the South African international shot-stopper.

Williams was struggling with crosses, though, and when he dropped one, Mahmoud Kahraba almost netted for the Cairo Red Devils.

Tau was unlucky when his fierce close-range shot rattled the crossbar, and the South African side were grateful to still be ahead on aggregate at the break.

Sundowns performed better in the second half only to put themselves under pressure in the final six minutes of regular time when substitute Junior Mendieta was shown a straight red card.

The Argentine had been on the pitch just a few minutes when he was guilty of a studs-up tackle that caught Akram Tawfik just below the knee.

Heated Ahly claims for an added-time penalty, when the handball offence was committed just outside the box, were waved away by the outstanding Senegalese referee after a VAR check.

Read: Tanzania, Ghana champions drawn with giants Al Ahly

On the outskirts of Tunis, Brazilian Rodrigues cancelled the one-goal lead Wydad had taken into the second leg with an unstoppable header on 66 minutes.

He had the ball in the net again after 88 minutes, but VAR revealed that a teammate had strayed offside in the build-up and the goal was disallowed.

Rodrigues, a recent signing from Brazilian second-tier club Juventude, was the only player who failed to score in the shoot-out.

His spot kick lacked power and Wydad goalkeeper Youssef El Motie went the right way to pull off what proved to be the crucial save.

Senegalese substitute Bouly Sambou won the shoot-out for Wydad when he gave 19-year-old Esperance goalkeeper Amanallah Memmiche no chance with a powerful drive into the net.