Esperance pipped Mamelodi Sundowns to the top spot in Group C after they beat St George 4-0 and the defending champions drew 1-1 with AS Vita Club in the final round of their CAF Champions League group action on Sunday.
The Tunisian side went into the weekend one point ahead of Sundowns, but managed to hold on to their spot at the top of the group’s standings after two goals early in the first half and another two in the second half against the Ethiopian outfit.
Sundowns qualified in second place from the group after AS Vita’s Yazid Atouba’s second-half strike cancelled out veteran defender Thabo Nthethe’s first-half effort.
Sundowns will play Wydad Casablanca of Morocco in the CAF Champions League quarter-finals, while Esperance will battle it out with Egyptian giants Al Ahly. The matches are scheduled to be played between 8-11 September.
Sundowns started well in front of packed Lucas Moripe Stadium in Atteridgeville outside Pretoria.
Influential midfielder Percy Tau was unable to round off a counter-attack in the first five minutes of the match, while Liberian striker Anthony Laffor shot wide a few minutes later.
The home side took the lead in the 35th minute when Thapelo Morena set up Nthethe with a wonderful pass, which the defender turned into the back of the net with the class of a striker.
Sundowns again dominated the start of the second half. Tau was prominent in their attacks, but the ‘Brazilians’ just couldn’t find the second goal.
And the home side were left to rue the missed chances after the visitors got the equaliser with less than 20 minutes to go. Atouba beat Sundowns goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene with a bullet into the bottom corner.
Sundowns pressed for the winner in the last quarter of the game, but it wouldn’t have been enough to displace the Tunisians, as Esperance already secured top spot with their win.