Johannesburg – Denis Onyango remains one of Africa's finest. But such is the pressure that comes with the derby that he turned from hero to villain during Mamelodi Sundowns 2-all draw with arch-rivals SuperSport United at Loftus Versfeld on Thursday.
After Sundowns led by 2-0 lead early in the second half, the Brazillians goalkeeper appeared to be on his way to a seventh clean sheet in the league. But two blunders from Teboho Mokoena's lengthy strike saw him undo his work at the end of the night.
Neo Maema broke the deadlock with a sumptuous curling effort from long-range after being teed up by Themba Zwane before he set-up in from Peter Shalulile with a lovely chipped pass early in the second half to put his side in the lead.
Prior to that lead, it was appearing as a Maema show after his back-to-back contributions. He's made an impact as a starter or from the bench, ensuring that they are unbeaten this season after 11 league matches as they lead by six points.
But perhaps, it’s worth a mention that it’s not only Maema who’s enjoying life at Sundowns after what was probably deemed as a “career ending move”. Haashim Domingo, Grant Kekana and Khuliso Mudau are all growing in leaps and bounds.
But Sundowns will be wary of the fact that they were flat after scoring the second goal. They let their guard down, with Ghampani Lungu capitalising on a Mokoena rebound before the latter beat Onyango who failed to clear his set-piece.
This rivalry has become one of the most anticipated clashes in local football, given that it’s produced flair and goals. So, with the two teams at the back of a disappointing outing over the weekend, they were expected to reignite the fierce rivalry.
It was SuperSport who started to light up the party. As early as the first minute, Matsantsantsa a Pitori had the chance to break the deadlock after a quick link up between Sipho Mbule and Teboho Mokoena closer to Sundowns’ 18-area.
Mokoena’s final pass found Thamsanqa Gabuza who hit a first-time curler that unceremoniously rattled the crossbar, with Denis Onyango flat-footed. But that baptism of fire was immediately extinguished by Sundowns who were gelling together.
As a result, Peter Shalulile should have returned to the scoreboard after failing to find the net against City, but his diving volley from close-range sailed wide off target – as the Brazilians started to seriously knock on their neighbour’s door.
It’s usually detrimental not to punish Sundowns when a chance arises. And when Gabuza’s header from a Ghampani Lungu’s cross was cleared off the line you got a feeling that the visitors were probably going to rue their chances.
And that was, indeed, the case! Shalulile was afforded acres of space to twist and turn in front of SuperSport's box before his final shot shaved the crossbar. From thereon, the Brazilians just seemed more and more determined to find the lead.
Williams parried away what could have been a delightful own-goal from Thatayaone Ditlhokwe. But that was how far the former can go from saving his team in the half as Maema’s beauty meant they went into the break behind - deservedly.
The Brazilians, though, picked up where they left off in the second half, with Shalulile scoring his ninth goal in the league after a Maema assist. But Sundowns allowed SuperSport back into the game, with Onyango undoing his good work.