Mamelodi Sundowns missed an opportunity to rattle Wits and overtake them at the summit of the Premiership before their top of the table clash on Saturday by drawing 1-1 with Polokwane City on Tuesday night.
But the Brazilians are still in the driver’s seat, as they trail Wits by two points with two games in hand, despite the stalemate with Polokwane City at Loftus Versfeld.
Sundowns came into this match looking for a win by a two-goal margin to overtake Wits and claim the No 1 spot, thanks to a superior goal difference.
They showed their intentions from the onset, pressing Rise and Shine high, while attacking them with all their might.
The hosts took an early lead after lovely interplay between Themba Zwane and Gaston Sirino.
The Uruguayan magician laid the ball for Zwane, who finished the move he started.
Rise and Shine chased Sundowns, with Dennis Onyango a passenger in Sundowns’ goal.
But the burly Ugandan, who was named in Caf’s Africa’s Finest XI, finished the first half with tears running down his face.
Onyango unwittingly put the ball into his own net in trying to stop Salulani Phiri’s tame header.
The Sundowns’ No 1 stopped the header, but his legs got tangled with the ball, and he played it into his own net.
He cut a dejected figure, pulling his jersey over his face in frustration, and cried as he walked off the pitch at halftime for dropping the ball literally and figuratively.
His teammates rallied behind him while the normally animated coach Pitso Mosimane looked away.
WATCH: Mamelodi Sundowns goalkeeper Denis Onyango somehow managed to divert the ball over the line for a Polokwane City equaliser late in the 1st half at Loftus Versfeld #AbsaPrem pic.twitter.com/GVORBUYy6N— IOL Sport (@IOLsport) February 19, 2019
That goal perfectly described how this match went. Sundowns dominated proceedings, with Rise and Shine huffing and puffing to catch up.
The only threat Sundowns faced was from themselves. Polokwane played a bit better in the second half, pushed by the belief that they can spoil the party for the Tshwane giants.
They absorbed the pressure and looked to catch Sundowns on a counter-attack. That strategy worked well in their previous trip to the country’s capital.
Polokwane managed to collect maximum points in that trip, thanks to the fast and rugged Rodney Ramagalela.
Polokwane missed Ramagalela on Tuesday night.
Charlton Mashumba has the physical presence, but isn’t as mobile as Ramagalela, who has been sidelined by the club since signing a pre-contract with Highlands Park.
Rise and Shine might live to rue that decision as their current strike-force is slow. Ramagalela’s speed would have been handy against Sundowns’ slow central pairing of Wayne Arendse and Ricardo Nascimento.
While Ramagalela sits on the stands counting down until the end of the season, Jeremy Brockie on the Sundowns side is facing an uncertain future after the arrival of Emiliano Tade.
The Argentine forward, who made a name for himself in Brockie’s native New Zealand, started for the first time since making the switch from AmaZulu to Chloorkop.
Tade’s movement and speed works well with how Sundowns play, unlike the static Brockie, who is a target man.
Mosimane will likely go with Tade against Wits, who boast the toughest defence in the league.
That match might not decide who will win the league, but it will go a long way in tilting the scale of the winner.