JOHANNESBURG – Forget Pitso Mosimane’s words, he and Mamelodi Sundowns want the Absa Premiership and they showed it here with this win to move level with Orlando Pirates on 50 points.
Jingles, a master of psychological warfare, said last week he has given up on the championship and the “league must go to where it’s supposed to go” after Sundowns lost the Tshwane derby against SuperSport United. His statement was a dig at the Premier Soccer League who have dragged in punishing Sundowns for fielding a defaulter against Bidvest Wits last year in October.
But that was all mind games. Mosimane's words were meant to pressurise the league to pass the ruling on the Wayne Arendse matter while making his team and Sundowns’ fans believe that they are also fighting the system.
The unusual kick off, 3pm during the week, made this match feel like a training exercise, rather than a crucial encounter between a team that’s fighting for the championship, Sundowns, against a side that’s fighting for survival. But a reasonable crowd cheered Sundowns on before they boarded a flight to Morocco last night for the first leg of their CAF Champions League semi-final against Wydad Casablanca.
The Brazilians’ start was lethargic. Kennedy Mweene’s butterfingers didn’t help. Mark Mayambela exposed Sundowns’ defence that was still fast asleep. The left-footed midfielder had so much time and space that he could turn gingerly before unleashing a shot that was missed by everyone in the hosts’ colours. That goal woke up Sundowns as they realised that they had a fight on their hands.
The Brazilians started controlling the match with authority while showing their intentions to win. Inspirational captain Hlompho Kekana levelled matters with a powerful header from Gaston Sirino’s free-kick. Sundowns could start to breathe, the fans relaxed and they started to fill the mainly empty stands with their voices.
Sibusiso Vilakazi’s well-timed finish not only announced his return after a lengthy injury but it also gave Sundowns the lead in a match they had to win to keep up with Pirates. Sirino secured the victory with his goal.
Rhulani Manzini pulled one back for Chippa, leading to a frantic finish that forced Mweene to pull out a last minute save. This victory will intensify the league race where Sundowns and Pirates are tied on 50 points with three matches to go.
Mamelodi Sundowns (1) 3
Kekana 43, Vilakazi 56, Sirino 69
Chippa United (1) 2
Mayambela 25, Manzini 84