A clash of two African giants produced what was one of the most entertaining 0-0 draws in Tuesday’s evening Group C Day Four encounter between Esperance and holders Mamelodi Sundowns at the Stade Olympique in Rades near Tunis.
The two-time African champions wasted no time in flying off their starting blocks, putting their visitors under immense pressure from the get go.
Ghilane Chalali gave Sundowns goalkeeper Denis Onyango his first test as early as the seventh minute with an audacious effort from far out but his attempt hardly troubled the Sundowns shot stopper.
The reigning champions remained patient in their build ups with the homers playing a high pressing game that gave the visitors very little room to play. A free-kick from a very good position was awarded to Sundowns in the 17th minute which was almost converted by skipper, Hlompho Kekana, with a beautiful curler that went just wide.
From that point, the Brazilians began poking holes into the Esperance defence.
A golden opportunity was gifted to South Africans in the 32nd minute after a casual pass from the Esperance defence saw Themba Zwane winning the ball to unselfishly lay it off for the oncoming Percy Tau who fired his shot straight at the keeper Moez Ben Cherifia to the relief of the Blood and Gold.
Back from a thigh injury, Anthony Laffor almost made a famous comeback with a good run from his own half that ended with a superb left footed finish that went just wide of target.
Sundowns were almost punished for wasting their chances when Esperance talisman, Fakhreddine Ben Youssef did well to connect with a cross from the left to send a powerful header which was well saved by Onyango.
Onyango, the reigning CAF Player of the Year � Based in Africa, had to make a decisive touch moments later after a dangerous cross almost found the dangerous Ben Youssef who was ready to pounce.
Returning from the break, the Tunisians played with a lot more vigour closing down on space which frustrated Sundowns’ rhythmic passing game.
However, not much was created in the second half with most build ups breaking down in the final third.
Ben Youssef remained a constant threat to the Brazilians and had to be closely monitored by the central defensive pair of Bangaly Somahorou and Motshekga Madisha.
The danger man almost broke the deadlock on the hour mark after lashing onto the ball with a brilliant header while sandwiched by the Sundowns defense but saw his effort go narrowly wide.
The hosts remained persistent on finding the winner while Sundowns resorted to switching into defense mode and escaping with a point.
The score line could have changed with just two minutes remaining when Onyango did well to save a well taken free kick from Chalali for the match to end 0-0.
Esperance remain top of the standings with eight points, three more than Sundowns, tied on same points with Ethiopia’s Saint George. AS Vita of DR Congo occupy bottom of with three points.
Source: Confederation Africaine de Football