Zesco edge Downs at home
Posted: 17 September 2016 Time: 14:12
Khama Billiat bagged an important away goal as Mamelodi Sundowns suffered a 2-1 defeat away to Zesco United in their CAF Champions League semi-final first leg.
Jackson Mwanza bagged a brace in the space of two minutes but a late strike from Billiat ensured The Brazilians have something to lean on ahead of their second leg next weekend.
The hosts got proceedings underway in Ndola and made their intentions known from the onset as they surged forward and had their first opportunity in as early as the second minute.
Jesse Were proved a nuisance for the Sundowns defence in the first half, and could have opened the scoring in the ninth minute, but Denis Onyango did well to thwart the striker with a well-timed slide tackle inside the box.
Four minutes later, Khama Billiat had an opportunity at the other end, but the forward mistimed his volleyed effort as it went wide of the mark and out for a goal-kick.
Downs had their first shot on target just seconds later when Mabunda ran onto a through-pass, but his effort lacked power as Jacob Banda parried the effort to safety before collecting under no threat.
Midway through the half, Were again beat his marker to collect a pass inside the box, but Onyango was alert and cut out his cross into the centre of the area.
10 minutes before the half-time break, Tiyani Mabunda did well to track the run of Ching'andu and make a brilliant slide tackle inside the Sundowns box to deny the attacker a shot at goal.
It was all square at the break, but Pitso Mosimane would have wanted a bit more impetus from his troops in front of the Zesco goal.
The home side started the second stanza on the front foot and their pressure was rewarded in the 54th minute, when Jackson Mwanza rose above Nthethe to head home the opener.
Two minutes later, the Zesco striker grabbed his second of the afternoon when he was quickest to react and deflect a free-kick beyond a flat-footed Onyango to double his side's lead.
Mosimane rung the changes and quickly replaced Siyanda Zwane and Themba wane with Asavile Mbekile and Teko Modise aorund the hour mark.
Billiat then had a shout for a penalty turned down and was shown a yellow card for simulation after getting a slight touch inside the box.
Minutes later, Percy Tau should have done better under pressure when he did well to initially get onto a long ball over the top, but he then ballooned his effort from an acute angle.
In the 80th minute, Tebogo Langerman was sacrificed as Mosimane changed the focus to attack by bringing on winger Anthony Laffor.
Two minutes after coming on, the Liberian had his first touch of game with a volleyed effort that went narrowly over the crossbar as Downs gained some momentum in attack.
Tau again collected a long pass inside the box and tried to cut in, but his decision to go for goal proved incorrect as his tame shot was comfortably collected by Banda despite Billiat wiating at the penalty spot.
At the other end, Onyango pulled off a superb reaction save to deny Mbombo Idriss Mbombo from point-blank range to keep his side in the tie.
With three minutes left of regulation time, Keagan Dolly sprang to life by winning the ball deep in his own half before going on a determined, mazy run and eliminating two players before finding Laffor in space down the right flank. Laffor picked out Billiat at the far-post, and the Zimbabwean executed a clever and clinical finish in off the near post as Banda anticipated a far-post shot.
Sundowns will now look to use the away goal in their favour when they welcome Zesco the Tshwane next weekend.
Zesco United: Banda, Silwimba, Banh, Owino Odhiambo, Oluwafemi, Mwelwa (Nkhowani 78'), Mtonga (Amkumu 66'), Chaila, Ching'andu, Mwanza (Mbombo 71'), Were
Mamelodi Sundowns: Onyango, S Zwane (Mbekile 58'), Nthethe, Arendse, Langerman (Laffor 80'), Kekana, Mabunda, Dolly, T Zwane (Modise 61'), Tau, Billiat