Mamelodi Sundowns come from behind to beat Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila
Stop us if you can! That was a clear message from Mamelodi Sundowns who extended their lead at the top of the DStv Premiership to six points after beating Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila 3-1 at the New Peter Mokaba Stadium.
This result ensured that the champions kept their title defence aspirations alive as they are unbeaten and have two games in hand compared to their challengers. Tshakhuma, meanwhile, dropped down to 15th on the standings, three points ahead of bottom-placed Black Leopards.
After dropping points for the first time in the Caf Champions League in their last outing out in Khartoum against Sudanese side Al Hilal, Sundowns were determined to bounce back to winning ways in the domestic league against Tshakhuma.
But that was easier said than done, given that they were on a two-game winless streak after drawing their last league match against strugglers Leopards. That draw saw them extend their lead at the top of the standings to just three points.
Sundowns’ technical team, knowing what’s at stake, started with their usual guns in Polokwane – with direct intentions of finding the early breakthrough which would calm their nerves and ease off the pressure which would come from a fresh Tshakhuma side.
But it was unceremoniously the home side that found the lead early on. Thembisani Nevhulamba, unmarked, beat goalkeeper Denis Onyango with a sumptuous header after being picked out with a delightful set-piece from Thabo Mnyamane.
That surprise deficit forced the Brazilians to come out and throw everything at Tshakhuma. They were unlucky not to find the instant equaliser after Themba Zwane connected with a loose-ball on the D-Line before shaving the roof of the net.
Onyango, though, had to ensure that the deficit doesn’t extend to two goals, doing well to block a pin-point shot from Mnyamane. But the Brazilians were not fazed by Tshakhuma’s bravery as they piled on the pressure for the equaliser.
It wouldn’t come, though, until the death of half-time. This is because goalkeeper Washington Arubi had come to his team’s rescue until then, denying pin-point shots from Thapelo Morena, Peter Shalulile and Rushine de Reuck.
Rivaldo Coetzee was responsible for ensuring that the champions deservedly found their equaliser. The Bafana Bafana international headed home from close-range after connecting with a well-executed Gaston Sirino corner-kick in stoppage time.
Sundowns started the second half the same way they ended the first. But some good defensive work from Tshakhuma and poor decisions from Sundowns didn’t produce an instant lead for the Brazilians who seem to make things difficult for themselves nowadays.
After being picked out by a through ball from the engine room, Sirino did well to lob his effort over an onrushing Arubi but Lehlohonolo Nonyane made a goal-line clearance with a bicycle kick effort. Sundowns, though, should have saved themselves from the blushes soon thereafter.
Zwane won his side a penalty after being brought down by Nonyane inside the box. Sirino stepped up to take the responsibility and clumsily put his effort wide off target. But Siphelele Mkhulise, however, would give Sundowns the deserved lead.
Lyle Lakay sent a delightful cross that found “Pitso” who guided home the ball with a header. But that wouldn’t be the end of it as the champions set the day and night between them and Tshakhuma, Sibusiso Vilakazi ratting the roof of the net after being set up by Shalulile.