Mamelodi Sundowns tasted defeat in their opening Caf Champions League Group A clash as they lost 2-1 against Lobi Stars of Nigeria at Nnamdi Azikwe Stadium on Friday night.
Sundowns came into the game revitalised after the Premier Soccer League rescheduled their midweek clash against Polokwane City, allowing the side to have extra time to travel and prepare for the clash in Nigeria, and they would have been hoping this would translate to some points in their opening group game.
Lobi Stars, who are unbeaten in their last 16 home clashes, would have been keen to kick off their Champions League campaign on a winning note.
The South African side came close to grabbing an early lead when Ricardo Nascimento rose to meet a corner with a powerful header in the ninth minute, but Stars goalkeeper Olufemi Kayode was equal to the effort as he produced an outstanding save to keep the scores level.
The home side began to grow in confidence, but Sundowns remained a constant threat breaking forward, with Laffor coming close to finding an opener with 20 minutes gone. The Liberian, however, could not find the target after breaking down the right flank.
Sundowns then finally broke the deadlock on the 38th minute after some quick and accurate buildup play saw Gaston Sirino slide the ball across the six-yard box, leaving Laffor with a tap-in.
It didn’t take Lobi Stars long to find the equaliser though, as Ricardo Nascimento hauled down Yaya Kone in the box as the forward broke through on goal. The referee pointed to the spot and the striker picked himself up to calmly stoke his penalty into the bottom corner.
1-1 at the break with it all to play for in the second stanza.
The home side started the second half on the front foot, calling Downs keeper Kennedy Mweene into action on a number of occasions, and even had a goal ruled off for offside, all within the opening five minutes of the half.
That pressure eventually paid off as the ball bobbled to Samuel Martins in the box, and he made no mistake in guiding his low shot into the bottom corner to give the Nigerian side the lead.
The Brazilians then looked to find a way back into the game as the second half wore on, and despite showing some good intent they were struggling to create any clear-cut openings.
Lobi Stars managed to hold on for the three points and get their Champions League campaign up and running, while Sundowns will have to wait until next Saturday when they host Wydad Casablanca at Loftus Versfeld.
Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix