Thapelo Morena scored twice to propel the Tshwane giants to a well-deserved victory despite being numerically disadvantaged

Mamelodi Sundowns booked their place in the Caf Champions League quarter-finals after defeating Al Hilal Omdurman 4-2 in their penultimate Group A game on Saturday afternoon.

Peter Shalulile handed Masandawana an early lead, but they were reduced to 10 players after Brian Mandelas dismissal. However, the PSL champions scored through Teboho Mokoena and Thapelo Morena (brace) to secure their fourth win in the group stage, while Yasir Mozamil and Osman Mokhtar netted for the Sudanese giants at Al Hilal Stadium in Omdurman.

Mokoena, Reyaad Pieterse and Lesedi Kapinga were recalled to Sundowns starting line-up as co-coaches Manqoba Mngqithi and Rhulani Mokwena made three changes to the team faced and defeated Al Ahly 1-0 in a Group A clash last weekend. Masandawana came into this match as one of the three teams which were undefeated in the group stage.

As expected, Mohamed Abdelrahman led the Al Hilals attack as the Blue Wave looked to avenge their 1-0 loss to Sundowns in the reverse fixture which was played in Rustenburg last month. The Blue Wave had boosted their ambitions of reaching the quarter-finals by defeating their Sudanese rivals Al Merrikhi 2-1 in their previous Group A encounter last weekend.

Sundowns got off to the perfect start as they broke the deadlock through Shalulile just two minutes into the encounter. The in-form striker turned inside the hosts box and fired the ball into the bottom left corner to hand Sundowns a 1-0 lead – making it four goals in as many matches with his partner in crime Themba Zwane providing the assist.

The Blue Wave responded by exerting pressure on Masandawana and the visitors were reduced to 10 players as Brian Mandela was shown a straight red card in the 11th minute. Mandela had denied Eid Mugadam a clear goalscoring opportunity on the edge of Masandawanas box and the resultant free-kick was placed just over the crossbar by Abdelrahman without troubling keeper Pieterse.

The Sundowns technical team responded by introducing a defender Grant Kekana and the Tshwane giants looked solid and compact. Pieterse could only make routine saves from the hosts hopeless long-range shots and his side looked dangerous on the counter which led to Masandawana being awarded a free-kick in the hosts half.

Mokoena, who has built a reputation for scoring with long-range shots in the PSL, stepped up and beat keeper Mohamed Abooja with a thunderous effort from the set-piece to make it 2-0 to Sundowns in the 30th minute. The Blue Wave tried to pull one back before half-time, but Pieterse produced a magnificent one-handed save to deny Abdelrahman and the score was 2-0 to Sundowns at half-time.

Another entertaining half followed with Al Hilal desperate to score and they managed to pull one back through Mozamil. The 28-year-old striker, who had scored the winning goal against Al Merrikh last weekend, beat Pieterse with a low shot to make it 2-1 in the 56th minute with Abdelrahman providing the assist.

The goal did not deter Masandawana as they surged forward and scored against the run of play with Kapingas long ball sending Thapelo Morena through on goal and he fired past on-rushing Abooja to restore Sundowns two-goal lead – making it 3-1 for the away side.

Co-coaches Manqoba Mngqithi and Rhulani Mokwena decided to introduce Neo Maema, who injected some speed and urgency into the 2016 African Champions attack. Maema set up Morena after bursting into the hosts box and the latter completed his brace with a low shot which beat Abooja to make it 4-1 to Sundowns with a minute left on the clock.

However, Al Hilal were awarded a penalty in stoppage time after Pieterse had fouled Abdelrahman in the visitors box. Abdelrahman was denied by Pieterse from the spot-kick, but Mokhtar scored from the rebound and the match ended in a 4-2 win in favour of Sundowns.

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