JOHANNESBURG – To borrow the words of the late Shakes Kungwane – who would have thrilled the crowd on this occasion, passing the one way while looking the other – this was a lovely draw.
The build-up of this Absa Premiership fixture and the 70 000 tickets sold added to the ambiance. A goal is all it needed.
It in the end, try as they may, Kaizer Chiefs couldn’t breach the Mamelodi Sundowns and vice versa, meaning coach Pitso Mosimane’s men we unable to end their drought of wins at this venue for a fourth season on Saturday night.
There may be regrets from both coaches not to bring on strikers Leonardo Castro and Jeremy Brockie earlier to give them the best chance of breaking the deadlock.
While Castro was tightly marked when he eventually came on for young Ryan Moon, who got the nod ahead of him in the Chiefs line-up because he’d scored twice in as many games prior to this encounter, Brockie troubled the Amakhosi rearguard and struck the woodwork not long after his introduction.
Kickoff was delayed by 15 minutes for safety reasons, but as soon as referee Daniel Bennett signalled the start, Chiefs were like a car without break pads.
Their transition play, championed by veteran Siphiwe Tshabalala, was incredible to watch. Sadly, the finishing left a lot to be desired.
Tshabalala asked a few questions of Sundowns goalkeeper Denis Onyango in the first half, almost squeezing a shot past him and into the net after taking a deflection from defender Bangaly Soumahoro, who was not so fortunate in the corresponding fixture here last season.
Tshabalala was also able to find acres of space when Chiefs broke away, but sending the ball to either Moon or Dumisani Zuma was often a wasteful option.
Perhaps Chiefs needed Castro, an ex-Sundowns striker who scored on his Amakhosi debut last weekend away to Baroka FC, earlier than the second half.
When he did come on, the Brazilians were a much better organised unit in defence – and they know his strengths and weaknesses as a former teammate.
The clearest of chances fell to Sundowns, even though Chiefs had owned them for the better part of this league fixture.
Percy Tau, not his usual self and again tightly marked by the impressive Teenage Hadebe, also had an attempt come off the goal-posts moments before Brockie followed it.
That is where the game could have changed, as Sundowns pressed for a winning goal to try and extend their lead at the summit.
As lovely a draw as this was, Chiefs needed the three points more.
As it stands, Sundowns are enjoying a healthy five-point lead, which would have been cut down to just two points and put them under immense pressure in the title race had they lost here.
But Mosimane set up his stall to clearly avoid walking away from FNB the loser yet again, and giving Chiefs the pleasure of completing a league double over them following the masterclass Chiefs dished out at Loftus in October during a 2-1 win.
This was a direct confrontation between two championship challengers, and it will feel like a missed opportunity for Chiefs, who will have to look for the maximum points elsewhere to close the gap on the Brazilians, who are still comfortable at the top.