Sundowns started the brighter of the two sides and almost took the lead inside two minutes when Diyo Sibisi was played in on goal, but his shot was straight at Itumeleng Khune.
Three minutes later and Khune showed his current fragile state of mind … catching a routine cross, but then inexplicably dropping the ball straight at the feet of Robyn Johannes. To his credit, the Bafana goalie recovered quickly to save the resultant shot.
Downs were making most of the play, but on 16 minutes Siphiwe Tshabalala, arguably the best player on the pitch, set off on a mazy run which eventually saw him square the ball to David Mathebula, but he dragged his shot across the face of goal.
It proved a brief respite as the Brazilians continued to attack, with Bongani Twala and then Sibisi trying their luck from distance, before the two combined to play a neat one-two which saw Twala firing in a shot which Khune did well to save low down.
Then, totally against the run of play, Chiefs took the lead on 38 minutes. An excellent build-up in midfield involving Tshabalala and Tinashe Nengomasha saw the latter squaring to Nale, who finished expertly with a side-footed finish from the edge of the area.
Downs almost leveled soon after when Sibisi met Vuyo Mere’s pin-point cross, but the former Free State Stars man headed over under pressure.
Muhsin Ertugral’s half-time talk clearly inspired the troops as Chiefs started the second half strongly, with Mathebula coming close twice within the space of two minutes. First his curling free-kick was well held by Brian Baloyi, before missing a great chance from eight yards out after being set up by Tshabalala.
Shots were restricted to distance after that, before Sibisi missed Sundowns’ best chance – from a corner the ball fell to his feet three yards from goal. He hit the ball well enough, but it struck a Chiefs defender on the line. From the resultant counter-attack, Nale raced towards goal and was fouled by Mere, who was lucky to escape a straight red.
The Tshwane side tried their best to get the equaliser – substitute Koketso Mmotong coming close when his goalbound shot was blocked – but in the end it proved a bridge too far.