Two giants of the African continent locked horns for the fifth time in the Caf Champions League with a place in the semi-final at stake.
The Tshwane giants had never previously beaten Al Ahly and were hoping to take a healthy lead into the second leg in Cairo as they took to the field in front of an impressive crowd at the Lucas Moripe Stadium.
As expected the clash started off as a chess match with both sides eager to have a feel of their opponents, but Al Ahly would have been wary as Gaston Sirino, who missed Sundowns’ last league game against Orlando pirates due to suspension returned to the starting XI and linked up well with Lebohang Maboe early on, with the 24-year-old having his side’s first chance at goal with wayward shot.
Al Ahly though grew in confidence and with an abundance of quality in players such as Ramadan Sobhi, who was on-loan from English Premier League outfit Huddersfield Town, proved to be a handful for Sundowns’ experienced defensive pairing of Ricardo Nascimento and Wayne Arendse in the opening stages.
However, it was Sundowns who struck first and then refused to take their foot off the accelerator. Sirino was again the conductor of the orchestra as he played the ball wide Tebogo Langerman, who delivered a pinpoint low cross that was met by Themba Zwane with 14 minutes played.
The 29-year-old is Sundowns’ top scorer in the competition this season, netting his sixth goal as he made no mistake from close range.
Not only did the goal come as a blow to the visitors who have been really poor on the road in Caf competition of late - last winning a game an away game in Africa back in August of 2018 - but they suffered an early injury blow as Saad Samir came off.
Minutes later, Sirino stole the ball off an Al Ahly defender and played Maboe through on goal, but the club’s leading goal scorer in the league was kept out by a superb save by Mohamed El-Shenawy.
Sundowns enjoy one of the most exciting strike forces in the tournament but are often guilty of squandering opportunities but it was defender Wayne Arendse who delivered a second stab to the hearts of the Egyptians as he beat the offside trap from a freekick and guided the ball past the Al Ahly keeper.
The home team bossed the game and Sirino then missed a sitter from point-blank range with 30 minutes played.
Sundowns were dominating and had it not been for the post on more than one occasion in the first half they should have been even further ahead as they headed into the half-time interval only 2-0 up.
The resumption of the second-half though saw the floodgates open up as Sundowns continued to press and Shenawy gave away a penalty inside the opening 30 seconds of the second half. Nascimento then stepped up and made it 3-0 with an expertly slotted penalty.
The 2016 African champions really looked up for the game and stretched Al Ahly, who looked shell shocked and flat as Sundowns dictated proceedings and forced the visitors into chasing shadows.
The movement of the home side was at times scintillating and a marvel to watch which entertained the home fans who were in full voice, spurring on their team for further dominance.
Had it not been for Shenawy in the Al Ahly goal, the scoreline should have been worse as before the hour mark, the Egyptian international denied Hlompho Kekana but he could do nothing to deny Sirino joining in on the rout as the Uruguayan showed good composure to emphatically put the ball beyond the keeper.
With Sundowns comfortably ahead, Mosimane then opted to give Sibusiso Vilakazi a return to action following a long injury layoff as well as Phakamani Mahlambi some game time against his former club, and the latter wasted little time in making an impact.
Mahlambi was on hand to scramble the ball over the line in the dying minutes of the match following great play between Zwane and Thapelo Morena, capping off a famous win and putting Sundowns in the driver’s seat heading into the return leg in Egypt.