The Brazilians began their 2018/19 Premier Soccer League (PSL) defence as they welcomed Chiefs to Loftus Versfeld Stadium for an exhilarating affair.
Both sides made several changes in personnel in off season and fans were looking forward to get their first glimpses of their new stars in competitive action.
Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane in particular, was looking to start a new dawn without Percy Tau and Zimbabwean Khama Billiat, who was actually in coach Giovanni Solinas’ starting XI. Billiat linked up with another former Sundowns player in Leonardo Castro upfront.
The Brazilians though, were relying on Jeremy Brockie for goals with Gaston Sirino expected to continue from where he left off in the game against AS Togo-Port in the Caf Champions League.
Due to thousands of fans still making their way into the stadium, kick-off was delayed by 15 mins, but that did little to dampen the atmosphere and the action on the field.
Both clubs went toe-to-toe against each other and it would be Castro who had the first real opportunity on goal.
However, his effort from just inside the area took a deflection which took the sting out of the shot and rolled tamely into Denis Onyango’s hands.
But while all eyes were on Billiat and Castro, it was another former Sundowns man who punished the Brazilians with under 10 minutes on the clock.
Ramahlwe Mphahlele took the ball off Sirino just outside the Sundowns box and he made no mistake as he calmly placed the ball past Onyango to his right.
The goal came as a sucker punch, but Sundowns did have chances to equalise.
Themba Zwane found himself in space at the far post, but his header lacked the desired accuracy as it flew over the bar.
It was a truly a feisty affair with both teams going hammer and tongs at each other, although Chiefs appeared to be the better of the two sides during the opening stanza.
That was until the 23rd minute when Brockie was clumsily brought down in the box by Chiefs defender Daniel Cardoso.
Sundowns’ Ricardo Nascimento stepped up to the spot and made no mistake as he buried his effort into the bottom of the net.
The goal led Sundowns back into the game and it became a much tighter affair. With the half-time whistle fast approaching, Brockie was again in the thick of things, but his volley crashed into the woodwork to the relief of Itumeleng Khune.
While both sides pressed in search of the advantage before the break, it was not forthcoming as they went into the break even.
The second half saw Sundowns come out the better of the two sides and it was Sirino who seemed up for the challenge.
The South American dazzled defences and almost provided a fantastic assist, but Themba Zwane got his feet tangled with only the keeper to beat.
At the other end, Billiat came within a whisker of scoring against his former club. Following a delightful move, the 27-year-old was played into space and unleashed a powerful drive which was saved by a strong hand from Onyango.
Both goalkeepers were enjoying impressive outings and Khune showed that whatever the Ugandan could do, he could do better. With Brockie showing good strength in the box, Khune was up to the task as used his feet to keep out the New Zealander’s effort.
Meanwhile, arguably Chiefs’ best chance fell to Siphiwe Tshabalala, but with acres of space in front of him, the Amakhosi playmaker could not trouble the opposition goalkeeper as his shot went wide.
Minutes later, Castro was played through on goal but again was unable to beat Onyango. The link between Billiat and Castro was certainly felt as Billiat played the forward through on goal only for Onyango to do enough to put off the Chiefs attacker.
With time running out, Mosimane threw on new signing Lebohang Maboe for some much needed acceleration into the Sundowns midfield.
In response Chiefs brought on Gustavo Paez for Castro, but the changes would do little as both sides shared the points and got their campaign of to a decent start.