Sundowns leave it late but claim all three points against Polokwane City
JOHANNESBURG – Pitso Mosimane raised his hands in disbelief, celebrating briefly and then looked at the referee’s assistant to see if he wouldn’t rule out Sibusiso Vilakazi’s late goal.
The assistant didn’t raise his flag, and the party started at Loftus Versfeld in what was a tense match for the hosts and a frustrating one for Mosimane who watched his team waste numerous chances.
Rise and Shine were five minutes away from getting what would have been a valuable point against the reigning Absa Premiership champions. With City starring down at the barrel of relegation, a point at Loftus would have been worth gold.
They fought hard to return to Limpopo with something, despite their key players dropping left right and centre through injuries. Kenneth Nthatheni and his replacement Ayanda Nkili picked up injuries in a physically and emotionally draining match for City. Rise and Shine finished with 10 man because when Nkili sustained his injury, they had already made three changes.
The visitors held Sundowns for 85 minutes in a one-sided contest, but with a man down it was always going to be difficult with Sundowns blasting City with everything they had. Sundowns did everything while City were just looking to survive. Vilakazi’s goal was huge as Sundown needed to win this match after Bidvest Wits won their game the previous day and the gap between them and Kaizer Chiefs who are No. 1 still huge.
The Brazilians’ put on a formidable team despite their daunting schedule that saw them play the Telkom Knockout final on Saturday last week, face Bidvest Wits on Tuesday and then host City last night. The club still has to fly to Algiers to take on USM Alger in the CAF Champions League on Saturday.
But an unlikely source suffered from the heavy workload, instead of Sundowns’ players who have had a long year. Five minutes into the game referee Khulekani Thusi pulled a muscle, forcing him to be replaced by the fourth official Victor Hlungwani. Thusi then faced the wrath of Mosimane who was visibly frustrated after two incorrect offside calls went against the Tshwane giants.
It was a mystery how Sundowns went into the break without finding the back of the net. They did everything right, from penetrating the City defence to troubling goalkeeper George Chigova but they couldn’t find the opener. The Zimbabwean goalkeeper denied the hosts, so did their wasteful nature in front of goals – especially Siphelele Mkhulise.
Rise and Shine came into the match at the back of nine successive loses in all competitions. But they had an extra spring in their step as this was coach Clinton Larsen’s first match in charge. Larsen has a mammoth task of turning around the team that hasn’t risen nor shone this season following a disappointing start that led to the sacking of coach Zlatko Krmpotic.
Larsen came with a more tactically organised approach. City defended well and frustrated Sundowns who had a powerful attacking arsenal. But thanks to their Champions League experience, Sundowns knew how to manage this game and did enough to score late into the match.
This win will make their trip to Algiers a bit smoother knowing that they are collecting points in their catch up. But the ride back to Polokwane for City would have been terrible as this result means that they have lost their last 10 games in all competitions.