CAPE TOWN – Mamelodi Sundowns are through to the last-16 of the Nedbank Cup after a hard-fought 1-0 win over Cape Town All Stars at the Athlone Stadium on Friday night after yet another match-winning contribution from the brilliant Percy Tau.
But for National First Division (NFD) side All Stars, it was certainly a night of regret.
In truth, they should have comfortably seen off their more illustrious PSL opponents, but they failed to make the most of their scoring opportunities and paid the ultimate price.
In short, against a team like Sundowns, if you miss your chances, you will be punished at the other end.
And that, in fact, was exactly as it turned out. All Stars squandered two sitters early in the second half, with Lucky Setelele and Ntshuxeko Ndlovu, squeezing shots wide from right in front of goal.
Minutes later, Sundowns’ Uruguyan substitute Gaston Sirino threaded through a delightful ball for the irrepressible Tau, and the finish was unerring and clinical.
Goal, and that was it – and all All Stars’ good work on the night came to nought. Football, as it has always been, and as it will always be, is about goals.
But the Cape NFD club emerged from the defeat with their heads held high. All Stars were superb on the night and, but for their finishing, they should really have upset the former African champions.
It was an opening half in which, if you didn’t know too much about South African football, you’d never have believed that Sundowns are the current PSL log leaders.
The First Division side dominated possession and territory, and looked far superior. It was a simple case of All Stars employing a game plan that never allowed the champion Pretoria club to find any rhythm.
When in possession, the lower tier team dictated the tempo with confidence and they were never, in any way, over-awed or intimidated by the ostensible big names in the opposition.
And, when they lost the ball, they harried the man in possession, pressed and pressured, and just never gave Sundowns any space.
While there weren’t too many scoring opportunities in the opening 45 minutes, the best of the chances accrued to All Stars.
Ruzaigh Gamieldien was in on goal early on, but was foiled by a great block from the defence, while Ndlovu also had an inviting opening, but his goal-bound shot was deflected wide by defender Motjeka Madisha.
At the other end, All Stars goalkeeper Ludwe Mpakumpaku didn’t have all that much to do, except for one save at the feet of Sundowns left back Siyabonga Zulu.
But it was always going to be a case of who got the first goal. As soon as Sundowns went ahead in the 60th minute, it took the wind out of All Stars’ sails and the PSL side could then play with more ease and assurance.
In the end, the Pretoria club finished strong and could have added another one or two to the tally, but Tau’s goal proved enough to see off the plucky NFD opponents.
Despite the defeat, it will be a performance for All Stars to take heart from – and there were quite a few individuals who scribbled their names on the potential shopping lists of bigger clubs: two worth mentioning are midfield hardman Mlungisi Mbunjana and hard-running left-footer Ricardo Williams.