Mamelodi Sundowns got their 2018/19 Caf Champions League Group A campaign off to a poor start when they let a lead slip to lose 2-1 to Lobi Stars of Nigeria at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium in Enugu on Friday.
Sundowns led through Anthony Laffor, but goals in either half from Yaya Kone and Mathias Martins sealed the three points for the home side.
The South African side gave away possession far too easily and were second best to the loose ball for much of the match, out-muscled and out-thought by their opponents in a defeat that will be hard to take for coach Pitso Mosimane.
Mosimane chose a back three of Rivaldo Coetzee, Ricardo Nascimento and Mosa Lebusa, with Thapelo Morena and Lyle Lakay in the wing-back positions.
The front three comprised of Laffor, Lebohang Maboe and Gaston Sirino, with Tiyani Mabunda and Hlompho Kekana anchoring the midfield.
Laffor sprinted clear of the Stars defence inside the opening five minutes but with just home goalkeeper Olufemi Kayode to beat, the ball skipped away from him on the artificial surface and was cleared by the gloveman.
Sundowns were unfortunate again when Kayode made a superb stop from a Nascimento header following Sirino’s corner, with the ball looping up and dropping onto the crossbar and out.
The visitors then blew a three-on-one chance when Laffor drifted offside as he sought to link with Maboe in what ended up being a wasteful piece of play.
Sundowns looked by far the more penetrative side in the first half, and it was no surprise when they hit the front on 37 minutes.
Their ability to pick apart the Stars defence was a feature of the first stanza as Sirino was played into space and his cut-back was turned home by Laffor.
Maboe missed a glorious chance to make it 2-0 just before halftime when he again beat the offside trap, but faced just with Kayode, put his shot well wide.
Stars had the chance to level the scores shortly afterwards when Nascimento hauled down Sunday Adetunji in the box and referee Gehad Grisha from Egypt pointed to the spot for what looked a fair award.