Mamelodi Sundowns looked set to be crashing out of the Caf Champions League until Anthony Laffor broke Kampala Capital City Authority's hearts with a late strike to seal a 3-2 aggregate win for the defending champions in Uganda.
Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane chose to rotate his team following their 0-0 draw with Polokwane City in midweek.
Percy Tau and Yannick Zakri led the attack, with Colombian striker Leonardo Castro relegated to the bench.
Sundowns’ form of late has taken a massive dip as they have failed to score in their last three Premier Soccer League (PSL) encounters.
Their misery was only compounded further when former Bidvest Wits forward Geoffrey Sserunkuma opened the scoring, putting the pressure firmly on Masandawana, but a late Anthony Laffor strike rescued Sundowns from the jaws of defeat.
The match got off to a feisty start as both teams looked to stamp their authority early on. The Ugandans had the first shot of the match as Joseph Ochaya looked to threaten Sundowns’ goal, but the 23-year- old’s long range effort sailed over the bar.
Going into the encounter the Brazilians were without Sibusiso Vilakazi, who was stretchered off the pitch with injury during their midweek fixture and Sundowns’ injury woes seemed to have followed them to Kampala.
Defender Wayne Arendse, who missed the first leg through suspension had to be replaced by Bangaly Soumahoro 10 minutes into the game.
Meanwhile, KCCA goalkeeper Benjamin Ochan had to be at his best to deny Themba Zwane with a superb save.
In the 16th minute, Ochan was again called into action, denying a thunderous shot by Sundowns midfield general Hlompho Kekana.
In the lead up to the encounter much was made of Sundowns’ ability to contend with the artificial playing surface at the Phillip Omondi Stadium, but Mosimane’s troops looked to be unfazed as they continuously terrorized KCCA’s defence.
However, just like in the first leg Sundowns’ wastefulness in front of goal would come back to haunt them, as on the half-hour mark, Sserunkuma opened the scoring for KCCA. The goal swung the pendulum in KCCA's favour on away-goal rule.
In response Sundowns were not sitting back and Zakri could count himself unlucky as his effort shaved the woodwork following a superb interplay from the Sundowns attack.
Nonetheless, Sundowns would be forced to go into the interval a goal down and faced the threat of elimination.
Sundowns retuned for the second half with vigour and greater attacking impetus. Coach Mosimane knew what was at stake and withdrew Anele Ngcongca, who was having a torrid time at the back, and brought on Laffor.
Sundowns were growing frustrated with every passing minute. Kekana was powering through the midfield, trying his best to find the equaliser.
The reigning African champions were fighting for a way back into the encounter, but the Kasasiro Boys made their intentions known as they parked the bus.
While the combination of Tau and Thapelo Morena was proving fruitful, Sundowns struggled to break down the KCCA’s defence on a number of occasions.
Sundowns were pushing numbers forward leaving themselves vulnerable to the KCCA counter-attack, and they were almost punished in the 65 th minute, only for midfield stalwart Tiyani Mabunda to clear the ball away from danger.
Sundowns could not penetrate the KCCA’s resolute defence and relied on numerous long range efforts which failed to test Ochan. With under 10 minutes left on the clock, Sundowns grabbed the equaliser. Substitute Laffor blasted the ball into the roof of the net from close range.
The goal killed off the tie as Sundowns defended well in the remaining minutes to seal their passage into the group stages with a 3-2 aggregate win.