Mamelodi Sundowns squandered an early lead to draw 1-1 with Wydad Casablanca in their CAF Champions League Group C opener at the Lucas Moripe Stadium on Saturday night.
Pitso Mosimane’s side were knocked out of the competition by the Red Devils in the quarter-finals last year, and the hosts went about their business on this occasion with an impressive opening.
Khama Billiat broke through the defence in the third minute and forced Yassine El Kharroubi into a fine save, but there was nothing the keeper could do when Gaddarine diverted Vilakazi’s cross on the rebound over the line.
The Moroccan giants were opened up again around the quarter-hour mark, but Themba Zwane failed to test El Kharroubi after being played in behind the defence.
That miss came back to bite Masandawana just a few minutes later as the visitors restored parity. Haddad was not picked up inside the box and he planted a free header past Denis Onyango.
The newly-crowned Premiership champions were slow to recover and they nearly conceded again before the half-hour mark. Mohamed Ounajem’s curler looked destined for the back of the net, only to be denied by a fantastic save from Onyango.
Faouzi Benzarti’s men finished the half strongly and should have taken the lead on 35 minutes, but skipper Brahim Nekkach blasted high over the crossbar with just Onyango to beat after being released through on goal.
Sundowns welcomed the half-time whistle and Mosimane’s teamtalk at the break almost paid immediate dividends when Gaston Sirino threatened with a looping header that only just cleared the crossbar at the start of the second half.
The Brazilians were looking increasingly dangerous and Zwane wasted another good chance from inside the box after combining with Vilakazi, while captain Hlompho Kekana saw his venomous strike from the edge of the box deflected wide for a corner.
The altitude was beginning to take its toll on Wydad, although they did manage to fashion an opening on the counter with 21 minutes left on the clock. Nekkach’s shot lacked sufficient power to beat Onyango, however.
Downs piled on the pressure in the closing stages, but El Kharroubi didn’t have a save to make as the Red Devils held on for a vital point on the road.
Mamelodi Sundowns 1 Wydad Casablanca 1
- Gaddarine (3′) turns in Vilakazi cross
- Zwane wastes two chances for Sundowns
- Haddad (20′) equalises with free header
- Onyango denies Ounajem before half-time
- Sirino goes close shortly after restart