Lebohang Maboe netted late on following a horror mistake by Kaizer Chiefs goalkeeper Virgil Vries to give Mamelodi Sundowns all three points and resigned Ernst Middendorp to his first defeat as Chiefs’ head coach.
With the recent onset of the new year, both Chiefs and Sundowns locked horns in a clash of the
Both clubs ended 2018, knowing all too well that there was a lot of improvement needed to be done and the clash offered the two giants an opportunity to get their season back on track.
Meanwhile, Sundowns who went into the game on the back of 25 league games without defeat
Injuries to Denis Onyango, Themba Zwane and Andile Jali forced Sundowns’ mentor Pitso Mosimane to make several changes, but that did little to deter their ambitions with top scorer Gaston Sirino playing just behind Jeremy Brockie.
However, it was another player in Anthony Laffor who made his first league appearance of the season as he grabbed the early headlines. The Liberian, who is often referred to as 'a man for the big occasion', combined well with Sirino and showed great composure and skill as he found his way past Vries, who came in for the injured Itumeleng Khune.
Heading into the game, Chiefs were unbeaten since Ernst Middendorp took over in December, and he was hoping that having the former Sundowns’ duo of Khama Billiat and Leonardo Castro upfront would prove to be Masandawana’s undoing.
Sundowns were showing vulnerability especially from set pieces, and Chiefs took advantage of this as they found the equaliser with 15 minutes played. Willard Katsande was left unmarked at the far post as he headed the ball beyond Mweene for his second and Chiefs’ 18th goal of the league campaign.
There is really nothing better than a goal to up to ante, and the crowd at the stadium were treated to an exciting first half of football.
While both sides have been known for their organisation, particularly Chiefs who seemed to have adopted Middendorp’s tactical astuteness, they were being carved open through the middle.
Sundowns are most dangerous between minutes 15-30 as they have converted 35.7% of their goals during that period, and perhaps Laffor should have added to that stat as his effort was cleared off the goalline after Lebohang
Although both teams went in search of a goal before the interval, it was not to be as the remaining minutes were a rather stop-start affair with most of the ball playing action reserved for the middle of the park as they headed into the break level.
Coming from the break, Middendorp was expected to make some changes and he opted to withdraw Godfrey Walusimbi for Zimbabwean Teenage Hadebe, while also bringing on the more experienced Bernard Parker for the rather anonymous Hendrick Ekstein.
Parker’s introduction almost proved effective from the off as his glancing header agonisingly missed the target as Chiefs looked the better of the two sides following the interval.
At the other end, Sundowns were content to soak up the danger and played on the counter-attack, using the pace of Sirino and Laffor upfront, but it was Chiefs who enjoyed the better of the chances.
Billiat, who was coming up against his former side for the second time in a competitive game, arguably should have done better with his effort just before the hour mark. A quick break saw Parker feed the Zimbabwe talisman through on goal only for his erratic finish to sail well wide.
Having scored just 15 goals this season in the league would worry the defending champions and their mentor responded by throwing on the dangerous Lyle Lakay and Sphelele Mkhulise. But before the pair were brought on, again a set piece almost proved to be Sundowns’ undoing as Parker’s header flew across the face of goal.
At the other end, Chiefs were dealt a blow as Katsande was forced off the field with an injury, this meant that the Soweto giants would go even more attacking in the final 20 minutes with Kabelo Mahlasela introduced.
Meanwhile, Chiefs had scored just two goals in the final 15 minutes this season, but they looked eager to find a winner.
Nevertheless, against the run of play, Sundowns were given a gift of a goal as Vries misjudged the bounce of the ball and Maboe put the ball into an empty net, breaking Chiefs fans' hearts as they were resigned to their fifth defeat of the season.