The battle lines are sketched for yet another quarterfinal contest between Mamelodi Sundowns and Al-Ahly who will confront each other on Africa’s biggest club stage for the fifth time in a rivalry spanning over two decades.
The sides drew each other in the Champions League quarterfinals for the third time on the trot and will play the first-leg in Cairo this Saturday night. We take a look at previous meetings between the giants of the North and the South.
The first-ever meeting between the two giants was in 2001 when Sundowns became only the second side to reach the Champions League final after Orlando Pirates, who recently marked quarter of a decade since their triumph in the so-called “African Jungle”.
Sundowns hosted the first-leg in Pretoria in December of that year and were held to a 1-1 draw by the Egyptians. Loftus Versfeld was the host stadium as and Downs opened the scoring in the 26th minute through Zambian midfielder Gift Kampamba before Abdel Hafeez equalised in the 58th minute.
The second-leg was staged at the Cairo International Stadium and given their experience, Al-Ahly would go on to beat Sundowns 3-0, with its current president, Khaled “Bebo” El Amin stealing the show with a hatrick to help the Red Devils claim what was then their third title with a 4-1aggregate scoreline.
Little did we know that that final would give birth to one of the most exciting ties in African club football as the sides went on to battle it out three more times as we wait for the fifth episode with much anticipation.
Group stage spot up for grabs
2007 was the second time the giants confronted each other, and again, there was no separating the two in the first-leg. This time around a place for the group stages was on the line and after going down 2-0, Sundowns launched a fight-back through the late Oscar Ntwagae and later levelled matters through Jose Torrealba.
The second-leg was in the Egyptian capital where the Brazilians needed a result to advance, but they succumbed to Ahly, who were inspired by club legend Mohamed Aboutrika, who scored the second goal as they won 2-0 to wrap the tie by a 4-2 aggregate score-line.
Sundowns mop the floor with Ahly
It was then Masandawana’s time to land a knockout blow on their rivals and they had to wait a dozen years before they met again. This result is probably still fresh in the minds of both sets of fans and Pitso Mosimane, who sat on the blue and yellow side of the fence when Downs humiliated Al-Ahly with a ‘chesa mpama’, thumping them 5-0 at the Lucas Moripe Stadium in 2019.
It was a quarterfinal tie after Sundowns finished second in their group and Ahly won theirs. Themba Zwane, Ricardo Nascimento, Wayne Arendse, Gaston Sirino and Phakamani Mahlambi all took joy in registering their names in the score-sheet of what was the Red Devils’ biggest defeat in the Champions League. Ahly consoled themselves with a 1-0 victory in the return-leg but the damage had already been done in Pretoria.
The North Africans got their revenge in yet another quarterfinal tie last year, beating Sundowns 3-1 on aggregate to knock them out of the competition, which, ironically, Mosimane would go on to lift as head coach of Al-Ahly later on.
If you can’t beat them, join them, as it were, and “Jingles” delivered Ahly’s maiden title in about seven years.