Mamelodi Sundowns and Kaizer Chiefs played to a 1-1 draw in an Absa Premiership clash at Loftus Versfeld Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Ramahlwe Mphahlele and Ricardo Nascimento with with the goals for their respective teams in what was the opening game of the 2018-19 campaign.
The season got off to a delayed start as the match commissioner decided to shift the kick-off time by 15 minutes to allow much of the sold-out crowd, who were late to arrive, to enter the stadium.
When proceedings finally got underway, it was well worth the wait with both teams firing on all cylinders from the first whistle.
Former Sundowns attackers Leonardo Castro and Khama Billiat proved why they were such a hit in the country’s capital as they linked up for the first shot in anger of the season in the fifth minute. The Colombia international, though, could only succeed in hitting his effort straight at a grateful Denis Onyango.
It would be a fellow former Brazilian to open the scoring three minutes later; Mphahlele with his first league goal since scoring against Sundowns at the same venue in November 2016. The fullback robbed Gaston Sirino of the ball in a dangerous area before guiding his resulting shot into the bottom left corner, 0-1.
Sundowns surged forward in search of the equalizer and were gifted a chance to pull themselves back on level terms in the 25th minute.
Daniel Cardoso with a clumsy challenge on Jeremy Brockie leaving the referee with little choice but to award a penalty. Ricardo Nascimento duly stepped up and made no mistake from the spot, 1-1.
Brockie was then denied by the crossbar in the 38th minute with a crisp effort from within the penalty area. The New Zealand international had Itumeleng Khune beaten as his volley bounced off the turf and lobbed over the goalkeeper, but the woodwork came to the rescue.
Sirino emerged from the tunnel a man on a mission following the break as he looked to make amends for his first-half error and went close to doing just that from the kick-off. The Uruguayan unlocked the Amakhosi defence with a pin-point pass, but Themba Zwane failed to convert with the goal at his mercy.
Onyango then had to be at his brilliant best in the 55th minute following another mistake by Sirino – the Uganda international with a great save to deny Khama Billiat and spare his teammates blushes.
Brockie and Castro fluffed further chances at either ends of the pitch with the later particularly wasteful in front of goal throughout the clash.
Pitso Mosimane handed Lebohang Maboe his debut in the 78th minute in place of Sibusiso Vilakazi, but the former Maritzburg United man had little chance to make an impact.
Tiyani Mabunda launched a late shot at goal in added time as the defending champions aimed to snatch all three points at the death, but Khune was well positioned to make an easy save.
A point well earned for Chiefs on their travels in what was an enthralling encounter to kick-off what promises to be an exciting season.
Mamelodi Sundowns 1 (1) (Nascimento 25′ pen.)
Kaizer Chiefs 1 (1) (Mphahlele 8′)
Mamelodi Sundowns: Onyango; Lakay, Nascimento, Arendse, Ngcongca – Kekana (Mabunda 78′), Manyisa, Zwane – Sirino (Morena 85′), Vilakazi (Maboe 78′), Brockie.
Kaizer Chiefs:Khune; Mphahlele (Moleko 87′), Mathoho, Cardoso, Ntiya-Ntiya – Katsande, Ntshangase, Tshabalala (Ekstein 90′), Billiat – Parker, Castro (Paez 81′).