Sundowns prove they’re still the team to beat in the league
CAPE TOWN – Champions Mamelodi Sundowns passed yet another test of their DStv Premiership title credentials with a 10-man smash-and-grab win after a stoppage-time goal against lowly Black Leopards at Thohoyandou Stadium, Limpopo, on Wednesday.
On the eve of the match, Leopards fired their coach Dylan Kerr. Their preparations for the match were severely hamstrung but it seemed the players were braced for a never-say-die performance.
For 63 minutes Leopards led 1-0 and even after Sundowns netted their equaliser (in the 64th minute), it looked like Leopards could hold out for a draw, more so as they enjoyed a numerical advantage after Mothobi Mvala was red-carded in the 66th minute.
However, 10-man Sundowns dug deep and snatched the winner through Peter Shalulile - his second goal in the match, five minutes into added time.
Instead of adding to their three recent draws against SuperSport United, Moroka Swallows and Bloemfontein Celtic, Sundowns bagged a priceless win to return to the summit of the DStv Premiership standings.
It seemed like the premature departure of defender Mvala would end their hopes of winning but
Sundowns coach Manqoba Mngqithi said his team rose to the challenge.
"Maybe that is where the team came back because immediately after he (Mvala) went off, the substitutes and the players that were on the field gave a good account of themselves," said Mngqithi.
Sundowns captain Hlompho Kekana earned high praise for his role in the team's fightback after he moved from midfield to a central defensive position.
"The captain took a unilateral decision to go and play in central defence," said Mngqithi.
"He did exceptionally well, and we were very impressed."
Ironically, Mvala was also singled out for praise by Mngqithi. Mvala saw red when he fouled Leopards striker Rodney Ramagalela, a former Sundowns player, who was poised to score.
“We know he’s (Ramagalela) very clinical in front of goal," said Mngqithi. "The man (Mvala) had to do what he had to do.
"Mvala took one for the team and I was hoping that it would be yellow but unfortunately, it was red.
“Honestly the boy (Mvala) helped us because Rama G is very quick, and he gains space behind the defenders.”
Black Leopards caretaker coach Lehlohonolo Seema said his side were too charitable in the match. He will be working with the players to ensure they do not the same mistakes tomorrow against TS Galaxy."
"We (the coaches) will have to work with these guys and pick them up. We are playing another game on Saturday and we have to make sure we get the points," said Seema.
"We cannot be donating points like this.
“On our side, where was the experience when we conceded a goal in the dying minutes?
"I don't even want to talk about one man down because after they went one man down, we created several chances that could have allowed us to win the game handsomely.
"I told them if you cannot win this game today, let us not lose this game."
Sundowns will meet struggling Chippa United at Loftus on Sunday.