PRETORIA – Mamelodi Sundowns huffed, puffed and somehow still had enough oxygen to blow Black Leopards away 3-0 at Loftus Versfeld on Wednesday night to move to second place on the Premiership log.
The Brazilians now trail log-leaders Wits by just three points with two games in hand.
The hosts should have humiliated Lidoda Duvha, who looked like cats and not the ferocious Leopards that coach Dylan Kerr has transformed them into.
The visitors missed Lehlogonolo Masalesa and Phathutshedzo Nange in midfield, which resulted in the Brazilians easily bullying Leopards.
The visitors’ defence and Sundowns’ misfiring ways kept the Limpopo side in a match where they didn’t show any glimpse of winning.
This was Sundowns’ three points to lose. And for a long time, they looked like they would throw away two points.
“Sundowns sometimes can give you a heart attack,” coach Pitso Mosimane said after watching his team create a plethora of chances, but only convert a handful of them against ASEC Mimosas in the Caf Champions League.
Those words rang loudly on Wednesday night in a one-sided contest that had some Sundowns fans believing that there were supernatural forces at work that protected King Ndlovu’s goals.
The Brazilians created enough chances to win their next five meetings with Lidoda Duvha.
But they struggled to convert those chances, whether it was through Ndlovu’s brilliance, Jean Munganga clearing the ball off the line or Sundowns simply being wasteful in front of goal.
One Sundowns fan shook his thatched broom, motioning sprinkling something to cast away the “evil” spirits of wastefulness that engulfed his team.
Mosimane was angry at first, but at one point, he saw the lighter side of his team’s misses. He hugged a ball-boy and asked the supporters what more he can do.
After that, he marched the entire bench to warm-up after Lebohang Maboe missed what should have been a simple tap-in.
The former Maritzburg United forward made up for that error by putting his side ahead from a move that was started by captain fantastic, Hompho Kekana.
The age-defying 33-year-old ran like a teenager to recover the ball from his own half, before playing an exquisite long pass to Gaston Sirino.
The Uruguayan playmaker then laid the ball into the path of Maboe, who made no mistake this time around.
That goal calmed the nerves of the Sundowns players, who were growing frustrated with each miss.
Leopards didn’t exactly just sit idle. They went toe-to-toe with Sundowns – a suicidal move if you don’t land your punch first.
The pressure from the hosts saw Isaac Masia put Maboe’s cross into his own net.
As Sundowns’ confidence grew, Leopards’ dropped, and they accepted defeat just before the hour mark against a team that had scored 13 goals against them in their last four meetings.
Leopards were just going through the motions in the last 30 minutes.
Pentjie Zulu unwittingly handled the ball in his box, clearly tired and frustrated from being made to chase shadows.
Ricardo Nascimento stepped up and sealed a convincing win to make up for the scary moments Sundowns had to endure.
‘Kajeko go jewa batho’ (today, we’re beating people) reverberated on the stands as Sundowns bagged three points with three goals.