Mamelodi Sundowns laboured to a 1-0 win over Al Hilal of Sudan in their opening game in the CAF Champions League group stages on Friday evening.
Mamelodi Sundowns 1-0 Al Hilal
Sundowns walked away the victory at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium, winning 1-0, but they won’t be pleased with their overall performance.
Al Hilal featured two players who played in the DStv Premiership this season, after the Sudanese club signed Gerald Phiri Jr from Baroka and Abdul Ajagun from Cape Town City.
And there was an early chance for the visitors, but after getting the better of Khuliso Mudau in the third minute captain Mohamed Abdelrahman was unable to get his shot on target. Moments later Ajagun was off target.
But while it was a bright start for the Sudanese, a defensive error in the eighth minute saw Sundowns into the lead, Themba Zwane pouncing on a loose ball, running into the box and beating Abdullah Abu-Eshrein to make it 1-0.
Ajagun’s effort in the 21st minute lacked power and Denis Onyango was able to save comfortably.
An accidental head collision saw Sundowns forced into an early change, and Thapelo Morena came on for Gaston Sirino in the 25th minute. Sirino appeared to have a broken nose. Morena almost made an immediate impact, and raced clear in the 29th minute, but a great last ditch tackle by Salah Ahmed saw him robbed just before he could shoot.
Al Hilal had another chance in the 37th minute, but there was no one at the end of a dangerous ball into the box. A minute later Peter Shalulile had the ball in the back of the net, but the Namibian striker was off-side.
Abdelrahman’s shot just before half-time was deflected behind, and while Sundowns led 1-0 at the break, they will have been disappointed by their overall first half performance.
Pavol Safranko had a good chance in the 49th minute, but his header at the far post was always going off target. Five minutes later Abdelrahman’s effort was deflected wide
Lyle Lakay’s free kick just before the hour mark forced a good save from Abu-Eshrein, who was needed again four minutes later to deal with Brian Onyango’s header.
Abdelrahman shot wide in the 69th minute, and then again ten minutes later from a free kick.
Walieldin Safour’s shot in the 80th minute was straight at Onyango, while a minute later it looked like Walieldin could score but Zwane cleared his attempt off the line.
Ibrahim Mustapha shot across the face of goal in the 87th minute.
Sundowns’ new Bolivian signing Erwin Saavendra, who only landed in South Africa this week, made his debut for the final few minutes.
Al Hilal had the ball in the back of the net just before full-time, but the referee had already blown his whistle for a foul on Onyango.
And it ended 1-0, a winning start for Sundowns, but not the most convincing performance.