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Petro shock Sundowns to reach CAF Champions League semi-finals

Johannesburg (AFP) – Captain Tiago Azulao equalised as Angolan visitors Petro Luanda drew 1-1 with South Africa hosts Mamelodi Sundowns in Johannesburg on Saturday to reach the CAF Champions League semi-finals.

Themba Zwane missed a penalty for Sundowns before Kenyan Brian Onyango gave them an early second-half lead that lasted 15 minutes before Brazilian Azulao levelled from another spot-kick.

It was a shock outcome as Sundowns, after winning home and away against title-holders Al Ahly of Egypt during the group stage, were favoured to win the southern African showdown.

Apart from the group achievements of Sundowns, doubts had been raised about the defensive strength of Petro after a 5-1 hammering by Wydad Casablanca of Morocco in their last away outing.         

Petro qualified 3-2 on aggregate after a 2-1 home win last weekend and now face Wydad or Chabab Belouizdad of Algeria, who play later on Saturday.

Title-holders Al Ahly of Egypt meet Entente Setif of Algiera in the other semi-final, with the first legs scheduled for May 6-7 and the return matches for May 13-14.

The single-match final of the premier African club competition, which carries a $2.5 million (2.1 mn euros) first prize, is set for May 29 at a venue yet to be announced.

On Friday, Ahly forced a 1-1 draw away to Raja Casablanca for a 3-2 overall victory while Setif upset Esperance of Tunisia 1-0 in Rades to win by the same score on aggregate.

Wydad are hot favourites to complete the semi-finals line-up having beaten Belouizdad 1-0 in Algiers last weekend.

Peter Shalulile wasted a great early chance to score for Sundowns by blazing over and Zwane watched in horror on the stroke of half-time as his penalty struck the outside of the post.

– Territorial supremacy – 

The territorial supremacy of the South African side finally paid off on 49 minutes when Brazilian goalkeeper Wellington Lima spilled a free-kick and Onyango fired into the net.

Joaquim ‘Kinika’ Balanga thought he had equalised soon after, but the goal was disallowed for a foul on goalkeeper Denis Onyango by defender Pedro Pinto.

It was only a temporary reprieve for the hosts, however, as after a long delay while VAR checked a tackle, Petro were awarded a penalty and Azulao scored.

Sundowns lacked energy and overhit many passes in the closing stages as they sought in vain a second goal that would have taken the tie to a penalty shootout.

Defending a 2-1 lead from the first leg in Cairo, Ahly made a disastrous start, falling behind within five minutes when Fabrice Ngoma nodded a cross into the net at the far post.

Then, as was the case a week earlier, Ahly missed a penalty with the effort of Ali Maaloul brilliantly pushed away by Anas Zniti. 

Trailing on away goals, Ahly had to score to keep alive hopes of winning the Champions League a record third consecutive time.

The goal that brought them level on the night and ahead on aggregate came from an unlikely source with centre-back Mohamed Abdelmonem scoring through a near-post header just before half-time. 

Although Raja had far more second-half possession, it was Ahly who came closest to scoring when South African Percy Tau rounded Zniti only to lose his balance and a tame shot was cleared.

Setif, twice African champions but five-time losers in the competition this season in qualifying and group matches, eliminated Esperance through a 21st-minute goal by captain Abdelmoumene Djabou.   

Esperance carelessly surrendered possession and a brilliant Riad Benayad pass set his skipper free to round goalkeeper Moez Ben Cherifia and calmly plant the ball in the net. 

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