Mamelodi Sundowns would have to settle for the runners-up spot in Group C as they were held to a 1-1 draw against AS Vita Club at Lucas Moripe Stadium on Sunday evening.
The Brazilians began the game with the chance of heading into the quarter-finals as group winners, although even victory over AS Vita wouldn’t have been enough as Esperance wrapped up that position with their win over St George .
The Tshwane giants will now face Wydad Casablanca of Morocco in the CAF Champions League quarter-finals.
The Brazilians carved out a great chance after four minutes following a swift counter-attack, although Percy Tau was unable to round the move off as his shot was closed down by the on-rushing Nelson Bongaman.
Sundowns continued pressing and should have at least again tested the goalkeeper as Anthony Laffor was played into the area, but the winger opted to pass instead of shoot but was unable to find Tau at the far-post as the defence cleared.
AS Vita weren’t without their own threat and saw a chance cleared off the line by the Sundowns defence, before Kennedy Mweene needed to be sharp to keep out a diving header on the rebound.
However, with 10 minutes of the first-half remaining, Sundowns went in front as Thapelo Morena slid a brilliant ball through for Thabo Nthethe, who controlled and turned in one motion before opening his body and placing his shot in the bottom corner.
Sundowns started the second-half brightly and Tau almost carved open a great chance after getting in behind the defence before looking to square the ball for Yannick Zakri, although the visiting defender just managed to get a vital toe to the ball to deflect the danger away.
Tau then forced a brilliant chance after receiving the ball in the area, opening the space to shoot and letting fly, although Bongaman got down well to keep out the forward’s effort.
The Brazilians again came close to a second goal just after the hour mark as Laffor broke down the wing with real purpose before crossing into the area, although Zakri was just inches away from getting a toe to the ball as the chance went begging.
Laffor then came close to scoring as he put his laces through a volley but saw his shot cleared off the line, while moments later, Sibusiso Vilakazi took too much time to get his shot away in the area and had the ball robbed off him at the vital moment.
Vita were hoping those missed chances would come back to haunt the African champions, and it almost did as Yazid Atouba let fly from outside the area, leaving Mweene rooted to the spot but seeing the ball clip the top of the crossbar on its way behind.
However, with 17 minutes remaining the visitors would get their equaliser, and in sumptuous fashion as a delivery was only half-cleared by the Sundowns defence, with Yazid Atouba following up with a rasping volley into the bottom corner that left Mweene no chance.
Both sides continued pushing for a winner in the final minutes, although numerous injuries and substitutions hampered the flow of the game, which eventually finished with the sides sharing the spoils.