Sundowns Beat Wydad to Win Inaugural African Football League
By Adedapo Adesanya
South African football club, Mamelodi Sundowns, have emerged as the first-ever champions of the African Football League (AFL) title, defeating top Moroccan side, Wydad Athletic Club, 2-0 in Pretoria on Sunday.
Sundowns trailed 2-1 from the first leg played in Casablanca last weekend, and they ensured they won by a margin of two goals with a clean sheet to engrave their names in the books of history.
The South African Premier Soccer League side sealed a 3-2 aggregate win to claim the top prize.
Sundowns striker, Peter Shalulile, returning to the team after weeks out with injury, scored the first goal in first-half stoppage time, while Aubrey Modiba added the second in the second half to seal the title into their hands.
It is the second continental title for Sundowns, also known as the Brazilians, having won the CAF Champions League in 2016.
The first half was cagy, Wydad playing with a low, compact block, denying Sundowns the spaces to play their usual incisive defence-splitting passes.
However, all through, backed by a capacity crowd at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium, the Brazilians kept their patience and composure.
They were finally rewarded in the third minute of added time when Shalulile pounced on a rebound after the keeper had spilled a long-range shot from Teboho Mokoena. The Namibian forward showed his class, being the first on the spills before clipping the ball over the keeper.
In the second half, the home side were off to a fast-paced start and they needed just eight minutes to double their cushion.
A sideways pass in midfield from Wydad was intercepted by Mokoena who raced into the box before chipping over the advancing keeper.
It was the second time that Wydad’s passes in their own final third were being intercepted as just minutes before the goal, Shalulile had run blind side of a defender to pick a backpass, but he had a heavy first touch allowing the keeper to pluck it off his feet.
After going 2-0 down, Wydad had to open up the game as they knew one goal would send the game to penalties while two would win it for them, just like they did in the Champions League semi-finals last season.
However, Sundowns were not ready to let lightning strike them twice as they kept possession, stuck to their shape and were careful with their passing.
They managed to hold on till the final whistle, with the entire stadium erupting in a frenzy as they celebrated the massive win and the trophy.
This year marks the first edition of the African Football League, which is set to become Africa’s newest club competition, in addition to the Champions League and Confederation Cup.