Uganda Cranes first choice goalkeeper Denis Onyango on Wednesday kept a clean sheet as Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa continued their impressive run in the African Champions League with a 1-0 win over Zamalek which put them into the semi-finals.
An own-goal from Zamalek’s Ali Gabr in the 79th minute secured Sundowns’ qualification to complete a remarkable turnaround for the South Africans in the Champions League.
Onyango who is the Uganda assistant captain was the reason his side picked a point against the Egyptians. He stood tall between the posts to denying Youssef, Abdelkhalik, Khaled, Shikabala and Morsy. On several occasions, he had a few shaky moments but did well to keep his side in the game. He was on several occasions called into action when his back-line exposed him.
Onyango believes Downs, who set an Absa Premiership record 71 points winning the title this season, have the muscle to reach the finals of Africa’s most prestigious club competition.
“It’s a new challenge for us because most of the guys have never been into the group stages,” Onyango says.
“We need to give our best because the club wants a star. It’s very difficult, but we need to fight as a team. We need to win our home games, and also get one or two results away.
Sundowns had been eliminated in the final qualifying round for the Champions League last April by AS Vita Club from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Demoted to the second-tier Confederation Cup, Sundowns were beaten by Medeama of Ghana in a play-off to suffer further African disappointment.
But on the eve of the June draw for the Champions League groups, the organisers kicked out Vita Club for using a banned player and Sundowns were reinstated.
The victory over Zamalek puts Sundowns top of Group B on nine points – six ahead of Zamalek in second.
Onyango will also be the main man on September 3 during must-win Cranes versus Comoros Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) at Mandela National Stadium, Namboole and Uganda can progress as either Group D winners or as best runners-up.
In the other group, qualification will go down to the final day of matches, after bottom side Al Ahly finally recorded a win – beating leaders Wydad Casablanca 1-0.
Zambia’s Zesco are tied with Wydad after being held 1-1 by Asec Mimosas of Ivory Coast, who have the same number of points as Ahly.