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Mamelodi Sundowns coach on the brink after another loss

Lamontville Golden Arrows have piled the pressure on Mamelodi Sundowns coach Johan Neeskens with a 1-0 victory in their Absa Premiership encounter at the Moses Mabhida Stadium on Saturday evening.

Coincidentally, both Neeskens and Golden Arrows coach Muhsin Ertugral were celebrating a birthday tonight, but it is only the latter who will feel like it was a party out there today.

Thanduyise Khuboni scored from the penalty-spot late on to hand Abafana Bes’thende the points, their first win of the season. For Sundowns, the poor form continues and Neeskens’ position at the club must be hanging by a thread.  

Ertugral handed a debut to Norman Smith, signed this week as a free agent. He played up front with new Bafana Bafana cap Thamsanqa Gabuza. Stanton Lewis dropped out of the squad. It was a first PSL game for Smith in almost 18 months.

Persistent rain over the last days had left the pitch heavy underfoot and it got worse almost from the start as a soft downpour got persistently harder through the first half.

It left the two teams tentative in difficult conditions but there were enough chances to have opened the scoring in the first stanza.

Sundowns had the better of the chances. Emmanuel Baffour scuffed an opportunity from a tight angle and a heavy first touch also let Themba Zwane down. Both players were making their first start in the Sundowns’ line-up this season.

Sundowns had an even better chance on the half-hour mark when Baffour and Samuel Julies played a clever combination that Julies toe-poked over the top.

At the other end, Gabuza peeled off the defence to get to the end of a poor cross by Siyabonga Zwane. Being off balanced, he still got the shot to shave the Sundowns’ woodwork in the 34th minute.

The chances continued to come in the second period, new signing Luyolo Mapolisa shot over when well-placed inside the box, while at the other end Themba Zwane forced a save out of Pavels Steinbors.

Neeskens replaced the excellent Julies with Tebogo Langerman, much to the annoyance of the Brazilian fans, but the youngster appeared to be running out of steam.

Gabuza created a shooting chance for himself with some excellent skill on the edge of the box, but Clayton Daniels just managed to get a block in, as he pulled the trigger.

Punch Masenamela should have done better when he was slipped into the box by Teko Modise on the right, but with numbers in the box, his low cross found a Golden Arrows shirt.

Esrom Nyandoro forced a comfortable save from Steinbors, but just as the game seemed to be heading for a draw, the home side got a penalty.

Gabuza chased a long ball and was brought down from behind by Langerman for a clear spot-kick. Khuboni stepped up and sent Wayne Sandilands in the Brazilians’ goal the wrong way.

With the pressure mounting on Neeskens, he now faces a Tshwane Derby against SuperSport United on September 26, a game that is possibly shaping up to be a must-win fixture for him.

Ertugral will feel some relief at tonight’s positive result. Their next game is another tough one though, an away trip to Free State Stars on the same day.