Downs Held In Tunisia22/Jun/2017 08:27
The point moved the defending African champions to second spot on the four team log on five points, three points behind Esperance.
The Brazilians simply could not afford to lose this clash if they had to keep their mission to defend their title alive. They withstood an early onslaught from the Tunisians, who were seemingly looking for an early goal. Denis Onyango was forced into a save as Ben Youssef tried a snap header.
Motjeka Madisha, Anele Ngcongca, Tebogo Langerman and Soumahoro Bangaly stood firm as the North Africans launched wave after wave of attacks, neutralizing them in the final third.
Esperance had a chance from a set piece but their attackers cluttered into Denis Onyango.
Then captain Hlompho Kekana was called on to clear the lines.
It took the Tshwane Giants twenty minutes before they could find their rhythm , and when they did, they put the hosts on the back foot.
Themba Zwane played himself clear before laying the ball for Percy Tau, but the youngster seemed to freeze as he shot straight at the goalkeeper in a one on one.
The attempt seemed to rattle Esperance, and they tightened up their defence and adopted a more cautious approach to their attacks, wary of counters.
They also closed up Yannick Zakri and Anthony Laffor, while Zwane kept to a defensive role and play was concentrated in the middle of the park. The two sides contested the midfield play without much dominance.
At the interval the two sides were still engaged in a tactical battle with few real chances.
The second half saw a spirited Sundowns probing for goals, but Esperance held out in front of their 30 000 fans who were impatient for goals.
Sundowns were given a major scare when Langerman went down in a chase, and it seemed like he had pulled a hamstring. The technical team must have sighed with relief when the left back returned to the field.
But as the game progressed, coach Pitso Mosimane pulled off Laffor for the pacier Thapelo Morena, who could also fall back into defence.
The visitors shut out the North Africans, who only had a chance from range, with the ball sailing wide of Onyango’s goal, and another as the clock was running down to the 90th which the Ugandan saved.
Lucky Mohomi was introduced for Zwane at the death as Sundowns settled for the point while Esperance tried to break out of the middle in search of a winner.
In the end, Sundowns would be thinking that had they taken their chance they could have grabbed three points but in the end they would have been the happier side, and their next assignment will be away to St George, who they lead on goal difference, and the final fixture against AS Vita at home.
Starting line up: Denis Onyango, Anele Ngconca, Motjeka Madisha, Tebogo Langerman, Soumahoro Bangaly, Hlompho Kekana, Themba Zwane, (Lucky Mohomi), Anthony Laffor, (Thapelo Morena), Yannick Zakri, Percy Tau.