CAPE TOWN – Mamelodi Sundowns ended a two-game losing streak in the Premier League with a workmanlike 2-1 victory (halftime 2-1) over a gutsy but struggling Ajax Cape Town at the Cape Town Stadium on Tuesday evening.
The Tshwane side’s 10th three-point haul of the season takes their tally to 31 and re-establishers their lead at the top of the table to four points, with Cape Town City doing the chasing in second ahead of Free State Stars, who are five points off the pace.
Glamour clubs Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates both have 23 points and complete the top five.
Sundowns have over the past few years found it tough to beat the Urban Warriors in the Mother City, so much so that before tonight's match they had returned to home base without a win from five attempts (last won in 2012).
But this time round, despite losing their last two games, the Brazilians from Pretoria were on-song from the start. That would have brought a smile to the face of their coach Pitso Mosimane who felt his troops were still in holiday-mode after seeing them surrender an unbeaten run on the road in a 3-2 defeat at Polokwane City last Saturday.
But the visitors had to come from a goal down to get the job done.
Ajax, who had defended for most of the first half with eight players inside of the big box most times when under the cosh, hit on the counter in the 27th minute. New signing Fagrie Lakay was the lone striker who was able to shrug off a defender before beating goalkeeper Denis Onyango with a shot across the face of goal that found the back of the net.
Sundowns then lifted the tempo and 10 minutes later drew level through centre-back Ricardo Nascimento’s coolly taken penalty past goalkeeper Brandon Petersen, this after defender Isaac Nhlapo was adjudged to have handled the ball inside the box. Petersen had minutes earlier pulled off two stunning saves, the first a world-class reflex save.
Sundowns did go 2-1 ahead a couple of minutes later after a first goal of the campaign for striker Sibusiso Vilakazi. He met, timed and then put away a neat cross from close range.
Ajax, who played second fiddle in terms of the territorial and possession stakes, once again surrendered a lead and never recovered. They had their moments going forwards in both halves… but again nerves and playing in patches hinted their cause.
Their plight at the wrong end of the standings is starting to become serious now that they’ve lost their last three games and nine in total from 16 starts, in the process scoring only 12 goals, the joint second lowest in the league.
The Parow-based side only have defending champions Wits below them on the log and this is because they’ve only managed to end up on the right side of the result on three occasions from 16 attempts. And it could get a lot worse for the men from Ikamva as they still have another four fixtures to get through this month, although all of them in Cape Town which is the only good news.
A challenging time ahead for sure for their new coach Muhsin Ertugral - who is in his fourth stint at the club - who only had five training sessions with his charges before his first assignment against Maritzburg last Friday, one that ended in a losing cause after enjoying an early lead.
He has his work cut out over the next few days before this Friday night’s clash with Platinum Stars. Time is against him in finding the right combinations and style he wants, as he said before the game.
Mike de Bruyn