Sundowns held by Rwandan champions Rayon Sports in Kigali
Mamelodi Sundowns would have been hoping for a more emphatic start but are still well placed to advance in the African Champions League even after a goalless draw away at Rayon Sports of Rwanda in Kigali on Wednesday night.
Sundowns, who received a bye in the first round, dominated the first half possession and had several chances but seemed to fade away in the tropical evening heat as they made their bow into the 2018 edition.
The width of the woodwork saved Sundowns as Rayon broke away in the 70th minute with Christ Mbondi beating Denis Onyango but not the upright and the ball bouncing back into play in a lucky let-off for the 2016 African champions.
But with the second leg to come in Tshwane, Sundowns should still be a sure-fire bet for the group phase of the continent’s top club competition.
Pitso Mosimane was taking no chances and fielded a full-strength side, with Hlompho Kekana back as captain and Percy Tau leading the line but Jeremy Brockie on the bench.
There was an early chance for overlapping fullback Tebogo Langerman but he hit the side netting as Sundowns exerted early pressure at the Amahoro Stadium.
The home side, with Belgian coach Ivan Mineart in charge, took off attacking midfielder Shassir Nahuimanaa for defender Nyansdwi Saddam in only the 34th minute in an attempt to try and halt the visitors’ flow.
But Sundowns kept coming and Uruguayan striker Leandro Sirino, in his Champions League debut, had efforts saved by home goalkeeper Eric Ndayishimiye.
Kekana also had a penalty appeal turned down four minutes before the break but Sundowns were almost caught on the counter as the first half came to a close with Shaban Hussein missing a golden chance from Pierre Kwizera’s cross from the left.
After the break, Sibusiso Vilakazi came closest to opening the score but his header was saved and then Sirino narrowly missed with a free kick.
But there was a lull then for Sundowns that neither the entry of Brockie nor George Lebese as substitutes failed to turn around.
Rayon looked to finish strongest with Kwizera’s free kick going across the face of goal in the last seven minutes.
Sundowns will host the return leg at Loftus Versfeld on Sunday, March 18 (kick off 7pm) and hope then to take their place in the draw for group stages in Cairo on March 21.