Mamelodi Sundowns finally took a bite of the juicy carrot of topping the Premiership log, which has been dangling in front of them since they hosted AmaZulu on January 29, with a 3-2 victory over Cape Town City at Loftus Versfeld on Wednesday night.
The taste was made sweeter by the fact that Sundowns marched to the summit of the league standings at the expense of championship contenders in City, who have consistently had the Tshwane giants’ number.
Just when the No 1 position was slipping from Sundowns’ grasp once again on Wednesday night, the man for the big occasion stepped up and unleashed a thunderbolt that secured the maximum points for the hosts.
Anthony Laffor, who has rescued the Brazilians from the jaws of disappointment a number of times, put on his cape and scoring boots to send the crowd here into wild celebrations.
The home fans found their voices once again after this goal, with the belief of title No 9 growing.
The test for the Brazilians now will be can they keep the No 1 position until the end of the season, like coach Pitso Mosimane said.
‘Jingles’ taunted the other championship contenders by saying that they must be careful because once Sundowns taste the top spot, they won’t relinquish it.
It doesn’t hurt his ambitions that his team have a game in hand over the chasing pack.
Sundowns put on a championship-winning performance against the Citizens.
They showed their experience of managing high-profile matches against a team led by a coach who is still a novice.
The Brazilians played this match with their brains more than anything else. The experience of Anele Ngcongca and Tebogo Langerman nullified the threat of Craig Martin and Riyaad Norodien’s speed.
Mosimane’s men absorbed the pressure well, knowing that the Citizens would take the fight to Sundowns as the Capetonians don’t lie down for anyone.
But that played into the hands of the hosts. They manipulated the fact that they don’t have a target man. Lebohang Maboe, Gaston Sirino, Themba Zwane and Anthony Laffor stretched City’s defence with their runs.
The plan was simple. Absorb the pressure, and then hit the visitors with a sucker punch from a ball that would be played in behind City’s defence.
Langerman came up with the ball that was received by Maboe, who gave the reigning league champions the lead.
City were made to look like amateurs, prompting Benni McCarthy to breathe fire into his team at halftime for them to make this match a contest.
A minute into the second half, City won a penalty, and Norodien blasted it past Kennedy Mweene.
Two minutes into the second half, City finally arrived in the country’s capital.
But the Brazilians would have the last laugh, courtesy of a man who brings joy by the bucket-loads to this part of the country.
Laffor’s goal and Phakamani Mahlambi’s late tap-in took Sundowns to the summit for the first time this season.
Kermit Erasmus scored a stunning goal in optional time, but it was too late.
The Clever Boys, Orlando Pirates and the Citizens now have to chase Sundowns.
What should make Sundowns more confident is that they have a game in hand, along with the point they lead Wits by.
The league race will intensify, with the championship contenders also having to face each other in the final stretch.