Sundowns set up thrilling end to the season

Sundowns set up thrilling end to the season
Leandro Sirino of Mamelodi Sundowns celebrates goal with teammates during the Absa Premiership 2019/20 match between Kaizer Chiefs and Mamelodi Sundowns at the Orlando Stadium, Soweto on the 27 August 2020 ©Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

by Graeme Jackson

Thursday Aug 27, 2020. 20:04

South Africa’s Absa Premiership title race looks likely to go down to the wire after Mamelodi Sundowns defeated Kaizer Chiefs 1-0 in a crunch game on Thursday.

The result at the FNB Stadium sees the Brazilians and Amakhosi level on points with three rounds of the campaign remaining. Chiefs still hold top spot on goal difference, but they have lost all momentum after winning just once in five outings since the league’s restart.

Chiefs manager Ernst Middendorp made a bold team selection by trusting 17-year-old Keletso Sifama (the youngest ever player in the first team) with a starting berth ahead of Khama Billiat, while Lebogang Manyana and Erick Mathoho returned to the run-on XI.

The Amakhosi looked dangerous on transition in the opening quarter of the game, but it was their own goalkeeper who made the first notable save, with Daniel Akpeyi tipping away a goal-bound shot direct from a free kick by Lyle Lakay in the 20th minute.

Fourteen minutes later Sundowns went ahead through a brilliant goal. Themba Zwane took three defenders out of the game with a superb reverse-flick assist and Gaston Sirino did the rest, striking the ball past the right hand of Akpeyi and into the bottom corner of the net.

The Brazilians were boosted by the goal and looked capable of adding to their advantage before the half-time break, but they weren’t quite able to capitalise and went to the change room with only a 1-0 lead to show for their efforts.

Chiefs made three changes at the start of the second half, introducing Dumisani Zuma, Khama Billiat and Anthony Akumu Agay off the bench in an effort to get their attack clicking. Within the opening two minutes Bernard Parker forced ‘Downs goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene into tipping a long-range effort onto the top of his crossbar.

The Zambian shot-stopper was in action again in the 51st minute, bravely smothering the ball at the feet of Zuma after a neat one-two between the substitute and Manyama on the edge of the penalty area.

The Amakhosi kept probing in attack but Sundowns came within inches of claiming a second goal in the 77th minute. Substitute Lebohang Maboe benefited from a mix-up in the hosts’ defence and had a clear sight of goal, but struck the inside of the post with a left-footed effort.

Ultimately Sundowns were able to hold out for a hard-fought win which puts them right in the frame to claim a third successive Absa Premiership title.

Kaizer Chiefs 0

Mamelodi Sundowns (1) 1 (Sirino 34’)

Chiefs: Akpeyi, Frosler, Moleko (Zulu 76’), Cardoso, Mathoho, Sasman, Katsande (Agay 46’), Sifama (Zuma 46’ [Mphahlele 90+4’]), Parker, Manyama, Kambole (Billiat 46’)

Sundowns: Mweene, Ngcongca, Madisha, Coetzee, Lebusa, Lakay, Mkhulise (Mahlambi 80’), Kekana (Arendse 83’), Zwane (Jali 65’), Sirino (Maboe 65’), Meza (Langerman 80’)

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