The Brazilians, champions of the continent back in 2016, beat Burundian side Bumamuru FC 2-0 in a preliminary, second leg clash at the Lucas Moripe Stadium Saturday to win the tie 6-0 on aggregate.
A first half headed goal by Mothobi Mvala as well as a trademark Teboho Mokoena thunderbolt strike after the break sealed the deal for a Sundowns side that never needed to get out of second gear against an opponent that hardly threatened goalkeeper Dennis Onyango.
A day after the country’s other representatives in the continent’s premier knockout competition – Orlando Pirataes – were sent packing via a shock penalty shoot-out defeat by Botswana’s Jwaneng Galaxy, Sundownstook to the field at their home ground in Atteridgeville in no danger of suffering that embarrassing feat which befll the Buccaneers.
Already a no-contest following Sundowns’ 4-0 victory in the first leg, it was interesting to see what shape this match takes. Would Bumamuru give it their all in an attempt to get close to reducing the deficit or would the Brazilians go for the kill and a record victory of sorts?
The early injury to Lucas Costa, who was stretchered off on ten minute that the goalkeeper had no chance of s to be replaced by Thapelo Morena, meant Sundowns were left bereft of their prolific scorer. The Brazilian had scored a brace in the first leg and expectations were he would continue where he left off.
His exit did not, however, rob Rulani Mokwena’s tram of their usual sharpness up front – what with Thapelo Maseko making charges on the left side and Bongani Zungu looking hungry for goals.
It was Zungu who opened the scoring via a brilliant header on 11 minutes following a splendid cross delivered into the box…
Taking the lead appeared to spur Sundowns on to being even more attack-minded and they essentially camped in the opposition half for most of the initial stanza, creating enough chances to could have scored a handful of goals.
Morena sent the ball over the goals from close range after patient build up which saw the South African champions working the ball through the middle into the box.
Zungu then wasted an opportunity to score a second on the half hour mark when he kicked the ball rugby style over the Bumamuru goals and way into row 13 in the stands behind.
Later on Aubrey Modiba whipped in a sweet left-footed free kick which was directed against the side-netting before Maseko missed the target by inches with a grass cutting shot from the left side across the goal following a brilliant pass from Zungu to send him sailing.
It was more of the same stuff after the break as Sundowns continued to dominate and played patient build ups in a bid to carve the Bumamuru defence open.
When the short passes failed to yield the desired outcome, Mokoena took it upon himself to find the net and when he received the ball just outside the visitors box, the midfielder controlled it to set himself up before he hit a piledriver that the goalkeeper had no chance at all of stopping.
The question now is who can stop Sundowns from going after that second star. The answer would be any of the usual suspects from north Africa – with Al Ahly, Wydad Casablanca sure to be the favourites for the title as they always are.