SuperSport were determined to build on their recent MTN 8 success over Kaizer Chiefs, while Masandawana were looking for redemption following their elimination by Maritzburg United last Sunday.
Nonetheless, Sundowns went into the clash as favourites due to their impressive record in the fixture. But coach Pitso Mosimane was not resting on his laurels as he named his strongest starting line-up. Mosimane rang the changes giving new signings George Lebese and Oupa Manyisa their first starts for the Tshwane giants.
Meanwhile, SuperSport coach Eric Tinkler opted for his tried and tested, making only two changes to his starting XI. Thabo Mnyamane returned for the encounter, while Thuso Phala’s second half exploits against Chiefs earned him a starting berth in the derby.
The sparse crowd in attendance were treated to a cagey opening stanza as both sides cancelled each other out in the middle of the park. The crowd had to wait until the 10th minute for the game’s first shot in anger. SuperSport’s Bradley Grobler lined up a shot from outside the area but his shot went well wide of Denis Onyango’s goal. Almost instantly, Sundowns had an opportunity of their own but Khama Billiat’s shot also failed to trouble the SuperSport goal.
With the half hour mark quickly approaching, neither side had anything to show for their efforts with both SuperSport and Sundowns struggling to break down the opposition’s defence. This was until the 25th minute, when Billiat found himself unmarked inside the SuperSport box, but his side footed effort was blocked by the SuperSport defender. At the other end, Onyango put himself into a spot of bother after his casual approach almost saw Grobler latch onto a loose ball, but the Ugandan managed to avert the danger.
On the 30-minute mark, Aubrey Modiba had SuperSport’s best chance of the half when his long-range drive rattled the woodwork. But it was Sundowns who eventually broke the deadlock as Hlompho Kekana poked his effort home from the edge of the box. The goal sparked the game into life as SuperSport went in search of the equaliser.
On the stroke of halftime, Sundowns thought they had a penalty after Percy Tau hit the deck following a tackle by Reneilwe Letsholonyane, but the referee waved play on, to the dismay of the Sundowns technical team.
The resumption of the second half saw SuperSport come out of the gates all guns blazing as they looked to force the equaliser.
However, with 50 minutes played the SuperSport defence was once again undone by a piece of magic as Themba Zwane banged home his first goal of the campaign. The 28-year-old executed his low drive to perfection as his shot beat the despairing Ronwen Williams at his near post.
On the hour mark, coach Tinkler threw on Teboho Mokena as he looked to inject some much-needed pace and energy into the midfield. Despite the Brazilians’ dominance, SuperSport came close to narrowing the deficit on two separate occasions. But while Grobler’s first header went over the bar, his second was superbly denied by Onyango only minutes later.
With 20 minutes remaining, the game became an exciting end-to-end encounter. SuperSport pushed men forward and left themselves vulnerable on the break, which eventually saw SuperSport’s hopes dashed when Dean Furman was given his marching orders for a second bookable offence after they were caught out on the break.
SuperSport to their credit continued to pressurise the Sundowns defence and Modiba was denied with under 10 minutes to go, thanks to a fantastic save by Onyango. Towards the end of the game, Sundowns had one final chance to kill off the encounter but a brilliant clearance by Grant Kekana denied the African Champions a third following a counter attack.