ATTERIDGEVILLE – An Absa Premiership title defence that had earlier looked a certainty has now taken on the status of a tall task.
A catch-up schedule that was expected to illustrate Mamelodi Sundowns’ class and strength in depth has only proven true the old football saying that points in the bag are better than games in hand after Masandawana were held to a 0-0 draw by Bloemfontein Celtic on Wednesday night.
And with back-to-back clashes against City rivals and championship contenders SuperSport United next in line, any more dropped points and the engraver will no doubt be putting on a new name on the league trophy at the end of next month.
A paltry three points from a possible 15 is not the stuff of title successes.
Sure, they remain in a position to still go top of the table should they win their matches in hand, Sundowns being seven points behind Cape Town City, who have played three games more. But recent results suggests that cannot be taken as a given.
Since that 2-0 win over Bidvest Wits on February 25, the Brazilians and league victories have been like the parallel lines of a railway line – destined never to meet.
They looked like they had really forgotten how to win on Wednesday night as they huffed and puffed about against a Celtic side that was clearly content to soak up the pressure and hope to catch their hosts on the break.
No doubt their fans and they too would have felt they were unlucky given that they had two chances in the second half ricocheting off the crossbar. But the reality is that those were missed chances.
On 63 minutes, Ricardo Nascimento’s attempt from close range bounced off Alfred Ndengane’s thigh and then bounced off the inside of the crossbar and back into play.
And then six minutes later Khama Billiat’s header from close range skimmed the crossbar and went over. When Hlompho Kekana directed a free header wide of goal even the die-hard fans must have known this was not their club’s night.
This much was confirmed three minutes from time when Patrick Tignyemb pulled off a remarkable save to tip over a dipping Teko Modise free kick.
The Cameroonian goalkeeper had shown in the first half he was going to stop at nothing to keep Sundowns at bay when he pulled off a double save on 39 minutes to deny both Castro and Themba Zwane.
The visitors had a few chances, their best coming at the half-hour mark but both Tshegofatso Mabaso and Lyle Lakay saw their shots blocked by Kennedy Mweene.
And defender Soumahoro Bangaly nearly gifted them a goal like he did Kaizer Chiefs last weekend only for Mweene to block the Cameroonian’s backward shot.
In a championship race with five clubs in with a realistic chance, Sundowns will know that they have to rediscover their winning mojo if they are to retain the championship.
But that task has now become that much tougher.