Revenge was in the air as Masandawana went in search of three points as they came up against an in-form Orlando Pirates on a hot Saturday afternoon in Tshwane.
Sundowns went into the game on the back of a 22-game unbeaten run and the fact that their last defeat came against Bucs earlier in the year added to excitement.
Meanwhile, Pirates were top of the table and hoped to extend their lead as Milutin Sredojevic made a handful of changes from the team which earned victory over Polokwane City.
However, in spite of bringing in the likes of Xola Mlambo and the club’s top scorer Vincent Pule among others, it was Sundowns who came out of the gates blazing.
After breaking his duck in midweek, Sundowns forward Jeremy Brockie was given a vote of confidence by his coach and he was immediately in the thick of things. The New-Zealander was the recipient of some great work by Andile Jali, who came up against his former side for the very first time, but his shot was wayward, to the relief of the Pirates fans that packed Loftus Versfeld Stadium.
It was a thoroughly enjoyable and open first half, and minutes later, Denis Onyango was called into action. The Ugandan missed Sundowns last two games with an injury and after passing a late fitness test he was up to the task as he denied Thabiso Kutumela’s long-range drive.
Jali was relishing the opportunity to come up against his old team, but his time was cut short with 14 minutes played as he was forced to be withdrawn with injury. Mosimane though has an abundance of depth at his disposal and that saw him bring on Tiyani Mabunda.
Although, the match got off to a blistering start, the heat began to become a factor with 20 minutes played, this saw a lot of balls played over the top. This allowed for the pace of the Pirates attack to come to the fore and Thembinkosi Lorch tested Onyango with a rather tame effort.
Pirates have netted 25% of their goals between the 30th and 45th minute and this showed in the Sea Robbers added attacking impetus upfront.
Nonetheless, the away side were resigned to several opportunities from outside the box as Sundowns showed just why they only conceded six goals in nine league games this season.
With a game of this magnitude, tensions were high, and a few minutes before the break after a fan stormed onto the field and appeared to have a few choice words for Pirates assistant Rulani Mokwena, a scuffle ensued on the touchline as both sets of technical teams needed to be restrained.
The altercation saw much of the excitement diverted from the field, but Lebohang Maboe did have an opportunity to steal the lead deep in stoppage time, but he lashed his shot wide of the Pirates goal as both sides went into the break deadlocked.
The resumption of the second half saw both coaches refrain from making changes, but Pirates certainly looked the more positive. Bucs scored 16 goals prior to the clash and they immediately went on the attack.
Pule had an early chance of his own but once again Pirates fell short of the end-product.
At the other end, Gaston Sirino, who was Sundowns’ top scorer but had a quiet first half, began to come more into the game and he had a curling effort which failed to trouble Siyabonga Mpontshane.
Sundowns had only failed to score on two occasions this season, and Mosimane would have been concerned as the midfield struggled to give their attack much to work with.
This saw the technical team look to Phakamani Mahlambi for that much-needed creative spark. The 21-year-old came on for Brockie and almost immediately broke the deadlock as he glided past the Pirates defend before firing a shot at Mpontshane’s near post. But it was not to be as the Pirates keeper was up to the task palming the ball out for a corner.
With time running out, Pirates introduced Augustine Mulenga, who had two goals and two assists for Pirates this season and he had a chance to grab the lead, but his long-range shot was straight at Onyango.
Once again, the game became an end-to-end battle, and while the match was entertaining, goals were not forthcoming as the clash ended in a goalless draw.