JOHANNESBURG – Defending champions Mamelodi Sundowns collected a valuable point away from home on Wednesday, as they played to a goalless draw with 2-time continental title winners Esperance, in a CAF Champions League Group C match, played at the Stade El Menzah Stadium in Tunis.
Playing in front of 30 000 partisan home team fans, Sundowns found themselves involved in a tense physical encounter, with the best chance of the match for the visitors, falling to Percy Tau halfway through the first half. However, the attacking Bafana Bafana player failed to get full power behind the shot with his left foot and Esperance's Tunisian national team No 2 goalkeeper Ben Cherifia Moez was able to pull off the save.
For Esperance, big centre forward Ben Youssef Fakhreddine got powerful headers on target in both halves, but Sundowns goalkeeper Denis Onyango was able to get his body behind the ball to save on both occasions.
Sundowns striker Yannick Zakri was involved in several physical tussles throughout the match as he was seemingly man-handled to the ground when trying to break from the Esperance defenders.
The South Africans seemed to play in a higher gear ratio than when they were beaten 2-1 by Esperance in Atteridgeville on June 2, and had the better of the chances and possession.
While the Sundowns midfielders were not given much time on the ball by their counterparts to create build up opportunities, the Sundowns defence held firm against most goal-bound raids from Esperance with full-backs Tebogo Langerman and Anele Ngcongca, always in the thick of things. Centre backs Motjeka Madisha and Bangaly Soumahoro also held firm in front of Onyango.
Sundowns, now on 5 points from 4 matches, will now have to pull out all the stops if they hope to make the quarterfinal knockout stages. Their remaining group matches are against Ethiopian side St George in Addis Ababa on July 1, and at home to A.S Vita six days later.
The point against Sundowns took group leaders Esperance to 8 points from 4 games, with their remaining fixtures being away to A.S Vita on July 1 and a home fixture against St George on July 7.