JOHANNESBURG – Mamelodi Sundowns yet again proved that they know the importance of stepping up to the plate during championship time after defeating Premiership leaders Kaizer Chiefs by 1-0.
Sundowns are now level with their counterparts on 53 points after the final whistle at Orlando Stadium on Thursday night.
Sundowns remained second on the standings due to an inferior goal difference but after blowing hot and cold since the restart they’ll believe that they have a chance of winning their third successive league, considering there’s three games remaining for them and Chiefs.
As the season approaches the twilight, and with Chiefs and Sundowns appearing to be hellbent on taking the title race down to the wire, there’s a gradual trend that players who can step up to the ask will be able to win the championship for their respective team.
Gaston Sirino scored Sundowns’ opener and winning goal here after a deft finish from close-range in the first half but credit should go to Themba Zwane sumptuous backheel assist that left Chiefs’ defence properly wondering what has gone wrong since the restart after conceding in every game.
Zwane will be pleased that he’s rising to the occasion during crunch time for the Brazilians, considering he came off the bench in the last two matches and scored the winning goal during Sundowns’ 1-0 win over Golden Arrows on Monday.
Zwane is no stranger to being Sundowns’ knight in shining armour during championship time after inspiring his team to back-to-back league titles in the last two seasons, albeit the Brazilians juggling continental and domestic football.
Well, while Zwane and company are used to closing in on the leaders late into the campaign, Chiefs’ appearance in uncharted territory, after failing to win the league for the last five seasons, is being exposed as they can’t seem to maintain a consistent outing.
Out of their five league matches since the restart, Amakhosi have only managed one win, two losses and two draws. The absence of strikers Samir Nurkovic and Leonardo Castro who were suspended and injured for tonight’s match didn’t help their cause either.
The striking duo have been largely involved in Chiefs’ resurgence this season but coach Ernst Middendorp was unceremoniously forced to start a game of this high temperament with 17-year-old forward Keletso Sifama.
The game proved to be overwhelming for Sifama as he battled to take on experienced central defenders Mosa Lebusa and Motjeka Madisha. In the 13th minute, Sifama should have opened the scoring spree but his close-range shot was blocked off the line by Lebusa.
But Chiefs’ senior players should perhaps be to blame for not cushioning the younger as Bernard Parker was perfectly positioned to take a dig at goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene, who came in for Denis Onyango, after being teed by Lebogang Manyama with a defence splitting pass in that move.
But Parker nearly made up for his negligence early into the second half after testing Mweene with a long shot. But the Zambian proved to be equal to the task, tipping Parker’s effort over the crossbar to keep the side into the lead.
What a game from this Man!🙌![CDATA]>🙌![CDATA]>🙌
— Mamelodi Sundowns FC (@Masandawana) August 27, 2020
It was the introduction of Khama Billiat, Anthony Agay and Dumisani Zuma, in the place of Lazarous Kambole, Willard Katsande and Sifama, after half-time that nearly brought Chiefs back into the game.
The trio, however, huffed and puffed but Sundowns hung on for three points as they made the league finish intriguing after Chiefs appeared to be destined to wrap up the season earlier after an impressive first half of the campaign.
Kaizer Chiefs (0) (0)
Mamelodi Sundowns (1) (1)