ZIMBABWEAN Khama Billiat continued to show a rich vein of form by scoring the winner as Mamelodi Sundowns shocked Egyptian giants, Zamalek 2-1 in the Orange CAF Champions League Group B fixture on Sunday in Cairo.
Billiat, named the Most Valuable Player after the recently ended South African Premier League, also had a hand in the visitors’ opener early in the game before settling the tie midway into the second half to push Sundowns three points clear at the summit of the standings.
With the maximum six points from a group reduced to three teams following the disqualification of ES Setif of Algeria, the ‘Brazilians’ stand a good chance of advancing to the last four, with five-time winners Zamalek trailing with three points and Nigeria’s Enyimba without a point in that order.
The South Africans were already up after 19 minutes through Samuel Mabunda against the run of play. Zamalek midfielder Tarek Hamed was dispossessed of the ball by Mabunda who laid to Colombian Leonardo Castro, who played a one-two with Billiat.
The latter fired a shot which hit the post only for Mabunda who was lurking around to fire home rebound.
The opening goal brought out the best of Zamalek and they lifted up their game in search of the equaliser. It will finally come on 36 minutes through Mohamed Ibrahim who capitalised on a misunderstanding between Sundowns goalie Denis Onyango and captain Thabo Nthethe, shooting past onrushing Onyango from Aymen Hefny’s long pass.
Onyango’s twitchiness almost gave the White Knights the lead for the first time in the game barely a minute into the second half, after he struggled to control a back-pass from Tebogo Langerman before weathering the storm with a timely clearance on the goal-line.
Minutes later, Zamalek were dealt a major blow as goal scorer Ibrahim saw his days on the field cut short following an ankle injury, and Moustafa Fathi replacing him. At the other end, Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane pulled out Anthony Laffor for Percy Tau.
The partnership of Sundowns pair, Keegan Dolly and Billiat was on hand to haunt Zamalek backline and the Egyptians goalie Ahmed Elshenawy denied Billiat on 64 minutes by parrying away his goal-bound shot.
The pair was back on the move two minutes later with Dolly laying to Billiat, who shot from close range for what turned out to be the winning strike.
In the dying minutes, Onyango scored full marks with a superb save of Fathi’s long range effort which was goal bound, as Sundowns cruised to a famous victory over the five-time champions.
The ‘Brazilians’ host Zamalek in the return leg in a fortnight in Pretoria, where a win will seal their place at the semis. – ANA