MTN8: Golden Arrows 1-1 Mamelodi Sundowns - Masandawana grab crucial away goal
Rivaldo Coetzee of Mamelodi Sundowns challenged by Michael Gumede of Golden Arrows , August 2021
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The reigning PSL champions showed character as they fought back to hold Abafana Bes'thende on a wet pitch

Mamelodi Sundowns had to dig deep to secure a 1-1 draw against Lamontville Golden Arrows in the MTN8 semi-final first-leg match on Saturday afternoon.

Nqobeko Dlamini handed Abafana Bes'thende an early lead, but a second-half strike from Pavol Safranko ensured that the rain-soaked encounter ended in a draw at Sugar Ray Xulu Stadium.

Michael Gumede led the attack for Abafana Bes'thende, while Dlamini and Velemseni Ndwandwe operated as two holding midfielders and the impressive Nkosinathi Sibisi marshalled the defence.

On the other hand, Masandawana recalled Andile Jali, Gaston Sirino, and Kermit Erasmus to the starting line-up with Themba Zwane and Mothobi Mvala out injured.

Arrows pressed high to force mistakes from Sundowns, who were looking to play from the back, and the hosts' game plan paid off just six minutes into the encounter. 

The visitors lost possession in midfield and Dlamini dribbled past two markers, before unleashing a powerful low shot which beat goalkeeper Denis Onyango hands down to hand Arrows a 1-0 lead.

Masandawana had to find a way to level matters and they were looking dangerous from set-pieces with Peter Shalulile forcing keeper Sifiso Mlungwana into a spectacular diving save with a header. 

Arrows coach Lehlohonolo Seema had to make an early change after Pule Mmodi went down injured and he was replaced by Siboniso Conco, who netted a fantastic free-kick against Maritzburg United a week ago.

Abafana Bes'thende were giving away a lot of free-kicks near their own area with Masandawana having upped the tempo and Mlungwana pulled off a decent save from Lyle Lakay's curling set-piece.

Mlungwana was a busy man between the sticks and the South Africa under-23 international made two fine saves to deny both Sphelele Mkhulise and Erasmus to ensure that the first-half ended with Arrows leading 1-0 at the interval.

Sundowns continued to apply some pressure on the hosts after the restart with Rivaldo Coetzee's header being cleared off the goal-line by Sibisi, before Mlungwana produced two good saves to deny Erasmus and Lakay.

However, Arrows looked dangerous against the run of play and Onyango had to be alert to the danger on his line as the Ugandan star made a magnificent save to stop Ndwandwe's tricky cross from going in. 

Masandawana's co-head coaches Manqoba Mngqithi and Rhulani Mokwena decided to introduce their new strikers Safranko and Thabiso Kutumela with 17 minutes left on the clock.

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Mlungwana continued to frustrate the reigning PSL champions as he produced a fantastic finger-tipping save from Sirino's curling corner-kick, before blocking Erasmus' goal-bound shot from inside the box. 

However, Mlungwana was finally beaten in the 85th minute when he failed to hold on to a low cross from Thapelo Morena and Safranko was there to poke the ball home from close range to make it 1-1, the Slovak's maiden goal for Sundowns.

The late goal ensured that the match ended in a 1-1 draw with the second leg scheduled to be played on September 28 in Pretoria.