Mamelodi Sundowns got their 2022/23 CAF Champions League group stage off to a winning start with a 1-0 win over Al Hilal at Loftus Versveld on Saturday afternoon.
In a game that was imperative for both side’s to secure a positive start with African giants Al Ahly among the competition for a place in the knockout stage – it was evident that Hilal weren’t coming to park the bus.
But Ibenge may have regretted his decision as the game was free-flowing and playing into Sundowns’ hands for the better part of the opening half.
It took 24 minutes for them to eventually break the deadlock, with Cassius Mailula netting his 10th goal in his 16th game across all competitions in an incredible debut campaign.
Ronwen Williams had to be alert of Hilal’s counter-attacking threat but his awareness, communication with defence, and positional sense made sure he didn’t have to make any point-blank saves, as has been the case for most of an exceptional season for the Bafana Bafana captain.
Early on in the second half, Sundowns had a goal incorrectly ruled out for offside when Neo Maema teed up Mailula who made no mistake to put in into the back of the net, but the linesman adjudged him to be in an off-side position, much to the dismay of the home supporters and the Brazilians’ technical team.
However, it didn’t come back to haunt them as Sundowns comfortably played out the game and were probably unlucky not to add to the scoreline for their Group A opener in a overcast setting in Tshwane.