Mamelodi Sundowns moved within touching distance of a first continental crown following a 3-0 hammering of Zamalek in the first leg of the 2016 Caf Champions League final at Lucas Moripe Stadium in Atteridgeville on Saturday.
Anthony Laffor, Tebogo Langerman and an own goal saw the hosts keep their unblemished home record intact.
Pitso Mosimane’s troops, though, will not be resting on their laurels as attention switches to the reverse fixture in Egypt, knowing that playing away in the North African country will be a difficult affair no matter their advantage.
Both teams took time to find their feet in the sweltering conditions just outside the South African capital, as fans continued to filter into the stadium past the designated kick-off time of 3pm CAT.
The hosts were limited to long-range shots in the early exchanges with both Keagan Dolly and Hlompho Kekana trying their luck – to no avail – from distance.
Thabo Nthethe notably saw his header attempt flash inches wide in the 22nd minute, as Sundowns continued to turn the screw.
But, the hosts’ patience would finally pay off in the 31st minute as go-to-man Laffor rattled home. Kekana picked up the ball in the middle of the park and following a marauding run at goal the Sundowns captain unleashed his fellow teammate; who turned his marker before firing into the top corner of the net.
With a certain William Jebor having caused the White Knights all sorts of problems in Rabat late last month, another Liberia international in Laffor did the same with the attacker a constant threat down the right flank in the proceeding minutes.
Sundowns were in firm control and doubled their lead in the 40th minute. Langerman’s speculative shot from range flying over Ahmed Elshenawy and into back of the net to the astonishment of both the fullback and his coach.
Zamalek’s best chance of the opening stanza fell to Basem Morsy on the cusp of halftime, the midfielder unlucky to see his weaving run come to nothing.
At the break, all the fans had made their way into the ground with the stadium packed to the rafters with close to 30 000 people filling the stands for an unforgettable atmosphere.
Inspired by the Sundowns faithful, the Brazilians came out firing after the break and made it 3-0 through Percy Tau in the 46th minute. Eslam Gamal Hamed was guilty of directing the midfielder’s low shot past his own goalkeeper.
Eager to grab an away goal, Zamalek pressed forward and went close in the 58th minute. Superb cover defence by Wayne Arendse denied Aly Hefny, who’s shot was cleared off the line.
Sundowns continued to boss the game and could have added to their tally late on, but last ditch defending on either end of the pitch kept the score at 3-0 heading into the reverse fixture.
The second-leg is scheduled to take place at the Borg El Arab Stadium in Alexandria on Sunday, 23 October 2016.
Mamelodi Sundowns (2) 3 (Laffor 31′ Langerman 40′ Tau 46′)
Zamalek (0) 0
Mamelodi Sundowns: Onyango; Langerman, Nthethe, Arendse (Soumahoro 70′), Mbekile – Kekana (T. Zwane 85′), Mabunda – Dolly, Tau, Laffor – Billiat (Modise 65′)
Zamalek: Elshenawy (Elrehim 63′); Maroof, Eslam Gamal, Al Gabr, Tawfik – Ohawuchi, Ibrahim Salah, Tarek Hamed – Shikabala (Ramzi 55′), Hefny, Morsy (Mohamed Fathi 76′)
Source: South African Football Association.