Mamelodi Sundowns are through to the semi-finals of the Nedbank Cup after a hard-fought 2-1 win over Cape Town City in an entertaining encounter played at the Cape Town Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
For Sundowns, it was again the Percy Tau-Khama Billiat show, while City played their part in what was really good game of football.
The Capetonians, especially, impressed with their resilience and refusal to give up after the Pretoria club netted twice midway through the second half. In the end, though, it wasn’t enough. Try as the Cape side did in the closing stages, they couldn’t find the equaliser.
But it certainly turned out to be cracking Cup fixture. How this game was goalless at half-time was a bit of a mystery. The opening 45 minutes was studded with some superb attacking play from both teams, especially Sundowns, and it was only fantastic defence or the woodwork which ensured there were no goals at the break.
For City, the pace and perseverance of Surprise Ralani and Sibusiso Masina out wide were always threatening, while Ayanda Patosi’s touch and intelligence kept the Pretoria club’s defence on its toes. For Sundowns, the clever running of the energetic Tau was a joy to watch, while the skill of Billiat and the craft of Uruguayan Gaston Sirino often had the City defence in sixes and sevens.
City made the early running, with Roland Putsche shooting wide after Ralani had set up the opportunity and, soon after, Patosi was unlucky to stab an attempt agonisingly wide of goal.
As the half wore on, though, Sundowns got stronger as Tau and Billiat stamped their influence and authority on proceedings. Striker Tau, the leading candidate for this season’s Player of the Year, had an effort saved by City goalkeeper Sage Stephens and he also created two openings for Sibusiso Vilakazi, but the first was struck wide and the second hit the upright.
Billiat produced what was probably the move of the first half when an outlandish swerve left City captain and central defender Robyn Johannes mesmerised and falling over his own feet; the Zimbabwean’s cut-back, though, was unfortunately hoofed onto the cross bar by Sirino.
But Sundowns made no mistake with their second half opportunities. Ten minutes in, when City surrendered possession, the Pretoria club countered with pace and precision. Billiat stormed into the opposition penalty area, slipped the ball to Tau, and the striker made no mistake with a composed finish. In the 62nd minute, it was 2-0 as a trademark long range thunderbolt from Hlompho Kekana flashed into the back of the net.
It would have seemed that would be it, game over, but City showed great character and fight. They refused to give in and, in the 69th minute, they were back in it when a wonderful, slaloming dribble and shot from Ralani reduced the deficit to 2-1.
With play swinging to and fro, Sundowns could well have sealed the result when a delightful chip from Tau over Stephens was headed for goal, but central defender Taariq Fielies produced the save of the day, making good ground to clear the ball off the goal-line.