Sundowns survive VAR controversy to reach Champions League semifinals

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Written By Maya Cantina

Mamelodi Sundowns are through the semifinals of the Caf Champions League following a 3-2 penalty shootout victory against Young Africans of Tanzania at Loftus Versfeld on Friday.

Ronwen Williams saved two penalties as the home team advanced to the last four of the competition. In total, Yanga missed three of their kicks while Marcelo Allende, Lucas Ribeiro and Neo Maema made no mistake from the spot to get Masandawana over the line.

Both teams couldn’t be separated over the two legs as the tie finished 0-0 on aggregate. Even the return of Themba Zwane, who was back from suspension, couldn’t inspire the Brazilians to break the stubborn Yanga defence.

Before the game, Sundowns coach Rulani Mokwena pleaded with the home support to also play their part from stands.

They tried to lift the players towards the end of the first half and it nearly paid off in the 37th minute when Thembinkosi Lorch found himself through on goal but Yanga goalkeeper Djigui Diarra saved well with his feet.

It was the game’s first clear-cut chance in what was a rather physical half with both teams fighting for possession. It left referee Beida Dahan with no choice but to brandish two yellow cards to the visitors.

The opening 45 minutes proved to everyone in attendance that Yanga were not in Tshwane to just play dead. Sundowns needed something special to break them down.

Save by VAR

Masandawana were saved by VAR after Aziz Ki produced a moment brilliance to beat Ronwen Williams with a thunderous effort that hit the underside of the bar and appeared to have cross the line. After consultation with the video technology, the referee, however, ruled that the ball had not crossed the line.

Franses Mzize should have put Yanga upfront but he missed a simple tap in when he only had Williams to beat towards the end of the game. It was tense in the stands from then on and it was left to dreaded lottery of penalties to decide the game.

Williams was the hero once again for the 2016 champions who will play the winners between Esperance and ASEC Mimosas in the semifinals. ASEC are at home to Esperance on Saturday, with the two sides tied at 0-0 from the first leg.

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