Second successive draw for Sundowns, this time against Highlands Park
This was not what Pitso Mosimane had anticipated after his three matches in the bio bubble, having defeated Bidvest Wits 3-2 in the Nedbank Cup semis and drawing with Pirates during the the season re-start.
JOHANNESBURG - Title chasing Mamelodi Sundowns eerily recorded their second successive draw upon the resumption of the Premiership season after the 1-1 draw with Highlands Park at Dobsonville Stadium on Friday night.
The daunting task of challenging for the Premiership title is sure going to be an interesting one as neither of the front-runners can’t seem to hit the top gear during the restart. Sundowns’ draw this evening meant that they are tied with leaders Kaizer Chiefs, who are three points ahead, on 23 matches.
Surely this was not what coach Pitso Mosimane had anticipated after his three matches in the bio bubble, having defeated Bidvest Wits 3-2 in the Nedbank Cup semi-finals and drawn with Orlando Pirates during the restart of the season.
But he’ll know that restarting the season was going to be a two-edged sword for his teams, needing him to tweak his starting line-up based on the conditioning of players and return of some from suspension, having welcomed back Gaston Sirino after serving a two-match ban.
But it was not the return of Sundowns’ playmaker that grabbed the headlines, instead it was young Siphelele Mkhulise that appears to be maturing with every minute under his belt this season, having merely made up numbers last term.
After getting the equaliser for his team late in the first half, Mkhulise drew in confidence in the second, getting into the right positions and taking on players as Sundowns sent forays in the Lions of the North’s final third.
But the two match advantage of the Brazilians under the new normal were not withstanding earlier, the sumptuous fit conditions of the Lions of the North, who were simultaneously on a five-month break as the rest of the teams, ensuring they grabbed the lead as early as the sixth minute.
Peter Shalulile got his team’s lead with a lovely half-volley that came off the underside of the crossbar after cushioning the ball against Motjeka Madisha, who’s been under-fire since the restart following the two errors against Wits in the Nedbank Cup.
That goal forced the visitors to come out of their half and take the game to the Lions of the North, who stood their ground until the last five minutes before half-time as Sirino made an instant contribution upon his return, picking out Mkhulise with a timed cross.
The 24-year-old midfielder who had a fantastic season thus far intercepted the ball with a delightful header that beat goalkeeper Tapuwa Kapini on his near post as two teams went to the interval level on 1-1.
With Mkhulise having the Lions of the North’s defence eating from the palm of his hand, the fearless Mosimane three two other youth products, Promise Mkhuma, who was making his senior debut, and Keletso Makgwala, who scored the solitary winning goal when the two teams met the last time in Nedbank Cup last-eight, into the fray.
The 20-year-old Mkhuma, who had positioned himself well, nearly opened his account after getting at end of a weighted pass from Sirino but his curling effort skied into the empty stands. And that’s how it ended as Sundowns continue to search for their first league win since the restart.
Highlands Park (1) (1)
Mamelodi Sundowns (1)(1)