Mamelodi Sundowns and Al Hilal played to a goalless draw in their CAF Champions League Group B match played at the Al Hilal Stadium on Friday afternoon.
Before this game Sundowns had already won Group B and qualified for the quarter-finals, and Manqoba Mngqithi and Rulani Mokwena made seven changes to the team that beat TP Mazembe in their last group game.
With Al Hilal still playing for second-place and qualification, this, their last home game, was a must-win match for the Sudanese, with their final game in the group a tough tie against TP Mazembe in the DRC.
Sundowns moved to 13 points, while Al Hilal are now third and have 4 points.
Algeria’s Belouizdad are second on 6 points while Mazembe, who have now been eliminated, are on 2 points.
Mazembe lost 2-0 to Belouizdad on Friday evening. Belouizdad face Sundowns in South Africa in their final game.
Al Hilal 0-0 Mamelodi Sundowns
It was a good competitive start to the match as the action swung from end-to-end, but it was birthday boy Ricardo Goss who had to be alert as the home team looked for a goal to keep their qualification hopes alive.
In his first start in the CAFCL, birthday boy Goss was called into action a few times in the opening half, making good saves to deny Mohamed Yousif in the 17th minute and also denying from a free kick three minutes later.
Goss wasn’t the only change to the Sundowns line-up, with captain Hlompho Kekana also returning to the starting eleven, while there were also opportunities for Mothobi Mvala, Mauricio Affonso, Aubrey Modiba, Promise Mkhuma and Khuliso Mudau.
Abuaagla Ahmed went closes for the visitors in the 36th minute, but his effort from outside the area, struck the upright.
Goss pulled off another save to deny Mugahid Farooug in stoppage time, and after 45 minutes it remained goalless. While Sundowns had 65% of the possession in the first half, none of their four shots were on target, while six of Al Hilal’s ten attempts were.
Kekana got Sundowns’ first effort on target three minutes into the second half, but it lacked power and was straight at Ali Aboeshren.
Moments later there was a great chance for the home team at the other end, but somehow Goss and the Sundowns defence were able to clear their lines, with a little help from the woodwork and a last ditch tackle from Rushine De Reuck.
The Sudanese side were desperate for a win, and continue to pepper Goss with shots, and again in the 51st minute he stopped a free kick effort that was on target.
In the blistering heat, and in front of a small but partisan crowd, Sundowns seemed content to sit back and take the pressure, happy to counter attack when the opportunity arose.
Substitute Haashim Domingo went close with fifteen minutes to go in one of those opportunities, but his shot from an acute angle was stopped by Aboeshren.
With ten minutes to go, Kekana almost pulled off an audacious attempt, as his attempt from inside his own half struck the crossbar.
It was a frantic final few minutes as the home team threw everyone forward looking for the winner, and Al Hilal were given a dangerous free kick in the last minute of stoppage time, just outside the box, But Yousif shot over.
It ended 0-0, Sundowns may not have a 100% win record anymore, but they remain unbeaten.