- Associated Press - Sunday, October 23, 2016

ALEXANDRIA, Egypt (AP) - South Africa’s Mamelodi Sundowns won the African Champions League on Sunday by surviving waves of second-half attacks from Egypt’s Zamalek to hold on for a 3-1 aggregate victory in the two-leg final.

Zamalek won the second leg in Alexandria, Egypt, 1-0 with Nigerian striker Stanley Ohawuchi’s long-range goal in the 64th minute. But Sundowns’ triumph was ultimately decided by their 3-0 win in the first leg at home a week ago.

Sundowns, based in the capital Pretoria, is only the second South African team to win the continent’s top club title and the first in 21 years. The win also earned Sundowns a place at FIFA’s Club World Cup in Japan in December.

The second leg in the northern city of Alexandria was played in front of a big crowd, a rarity in Egypt after five years of political turmoil and violence that has sometimes spilled over onto the soccer field. The 86,000-seat Borg el-Arab Stadium, Egypt’s biggest, was full for the game, and there was a strong security presence. Riot police formed a line around the field in the closing minutes but, although flares were regularly let off by fans during the match, there was no sign of trouble inside the stadium.

After an even first half, Sundowns went into defensive mode in the second 45 to protect their lead and the tactics worked despite some close shaves.

In the last 10 minutes, Sundowns defender Asavela Mbekile made a crucial clearance when Zamalek’s Bassin Morsi looked like scoring. Zamalek substitute Emmanuel Mayuka had a header scrambled off the goal-line.

It could have been far tougher for Sundowns if Ohawuchi had taken an early opportunity. He burst onto a pass in the 12th and found himself clear on goal, but poked a shot wide of the post as Sundowns goalkeeper Denis Onyango rushed out to close him down.

Sundowns lost Onyango to a first-half injury but kept their cool in a fierce atmosphere, and Zamalek missed chances to pile the pressure on the visitors.

Captain Ahmed Tawfik had a close-range shot saved at the near-post by substitute ‘keeper Wayne Sandilands in another clear chance for the Egyptians.

Sundowns also had opportunities in the first half, the best a deflected shot by Khama Billiat that bounced off the top of the crossbar.

After halftime it was all Zamalek as Sundowns backpedaled and chose to defend.

Ohawuchi’s low drive slipped under Sandilands’ left hand and into the bottom corner to raise Zamalek’s hopes - and the volume at the Borg el-Arab - with 25 minutes to go. The five-time African champions, who were last Champions League winners in 2002, couldn’t beat the Sundowns defense again.

The South African Premier Soccer League is often considered one of the strongest in Africa but Sundowns and Orlando Pirates, who won in 1995, are the only South African clubs to be crowned the continent’s best.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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