Sundowns win five-penalty circus

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Mzikayise Mashaba of Mamelodi Sundowns and Keagan Dolly of Ajax Cape Town during the Absa Premiership match between Mamelodi Sundowns and Ajax Cape Town at Loftus Stadium. Photo by: Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images

Pretoria -

Referee Victor Gomes stole the headlines in Saturday's Premiership clash between Mamelodi Sundowns and Ajax Cape Town at Loftus Versfeld, awarding an astonishing five penalties as Sundowns walked away 3-2 winners.

Sundowns benefited from three of the five spot-kicks, but only managed to tuck one away, courtesy of Katlego Mashego's 33rd minute strike.

By then, Sundowns had missed their first, after Teko Modise's effort was saved, while Ajax dispatched their first penalty, thanks to Nathan Paulse's successful conversion before the interval.

Shortly after the break, Gomes was at it again, pointing to the white dot on 55 minutes, which - like the first - did not materialise as Mashego squandered a chance to bag his second of the night.

But that would not be the end of the referee's influence, as Gomes blew for a fifth penalty on 90 minutes, again for handball, which Ajax's Lance Davids scored to edge closer, but the Capetonians fell short at 3-2.

Meanwhile, Thabo Nthethe scored his first goal for the Brazilians after completing a move to the big-spending Gauteng side at the end of January.

Anthony Laffor added the third from the bench, as the Pretoria outfit saw out the thrilling result.

The home side dominated the early possession, as Ajax struggled to get a touch to the ball, allowing Sundowns to make regular trips over the halfway line and into the final third.

Ajax, however, were resolute in defence and frustrated the hosts, who could not manage to break down the back four.

Ajax goalkeeper Anssi Jaakkola was forced into making a brilliant reflex save in the 14th minute, after Bryce Moon's dangerous delivery into the area found an advancing Mashego, who seemed destined to tap in, but was denied by the Finnish shot-stopper.

Four minutes later, Sundowns missed their first opportunity to take the lead when Thulani Hlatshwayo was adjudged to have brought down Modise in the area, prompting Gomes to point to the penalty spot, to the disbelief of the Ajax defender, who felt the decision was harsh.

Modise, though, would be further frustrated when Jaakkola pulled off a second crucial save, diving to his right to keep out the low thunderbolt from the man who was brought down seconds earlier.

The pressure kept piling on and Ajax ultimately gave way to Sundowns' opener in the 27th minute, as Nthethe headed home from Modise's free-kick, opening his account at Sundowns, three games into his tenure.

Controversy followed as Gomes awarded a second penalty to Sundowns, this time Granwald Scott the guilty party, as he was whistled for clipping midfielder Bongani Zungu.

On second inspection, the decision looked dubious, with Zungu appearing to have made the most of minimal contact from Scott, while the foul also appeared to have taken place outside of the box.

Mashego, nevertheless, made no mistake in putting the ball beyond Jaakkola for Downs' second, picking his spot and slotting home for his seventh league goal of the season.

Ajax were going nowhere and three minutes from the break, Zungu struck the upright, narrowly missing out on the night's third.

An action-packed opening half came to an end in characteristically controversial fashion, as Gomes went on to complete a hat-trick of penalties, awarding an incredible third spot-kick to Ajax, after Sundowns skipper Alje Schut was singled out for interfering with an Ajax attacker in the air.

Paulse pulled one back for the Cape outfit on the stroke of half-time, scoring from the spot, as Ajax found a way back into the tie.

The second half started much the same as the first, and it took just 10 minutes for an unbelievable fourth penalty to be awarded, again to Sundowns.

Gomes did not hesitate as he pointed to the spot, after blowing for a handball in the box, Scott once more the transgressor.

Mashego stepped up confidently and blasted goalwards, but he too would be unsuccessful, as the crossbar came to the rescue for the Urban Warriors and kept them in the running for a point.

Normality was restored on 76 minutes when second half replacement Laffor headed home Sundowns' third from a pinpoint corner delivery, which allowed the lanky winger to steer his effort past Jaakkola at the near post, reinstating the hosts' two-goal cushion.

But in the final minutes, Davids would be successful with his penalty, which closed out a remarkable result for Sundowns, who close the gap on log-leading Kaizer Chiefs to six points. - Sapa


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