It was a frustrating day out for the Premier Soccer League (PSL) champions Mamelodi Sundowns on Saturday afternoon as they were held to a goalless draw in Bloemfontein.
Sundowns travelled to the Free State province for their final game of the campaign. There was a celebratory atmosphere that filled the Dr. Petrus Molemela Stadium as fans packed the stadium to witness Sundowns lift the league title for an eighth time against Bloemfontein Celtic.
As expected Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane used the game as a way of giving many of his fringe players a run, but one player who was not rested was Percy tau as he partnered Jeremy Brockie up front.
Meanwhile, Celtic on the other end were determined to gain the three points and qualify for next seasons MTN 8. Coach Veselin Jelusic would once again put his trust in the likes of dangerman Deon Hotto, Ndumiso Mabena and the club’s top scorer Victor Letsoalo.
Nonetheless, the opening stages of the game was a tightly fought contest with Sundowns happy to just keep possession and build from the back. But with 10 minutes played Celtic were looking to use their pace upfront to their advantage. Just when Celtic thought they found an opening as they were played through on goal, Kennedy Mweene showed that despite his lack of game time he was up to the task as he averted the danger.
Clear-cut chances were proving to be at a premium in the game as Celtic were defending from the front and starved Sundowns of possession as the game past the half-hour mark. Without captain Hlompho Kekana in the middle of the park, Sundowns were struggling in their transition from defence to attack in the first half.
This lack of transition saw Brockie consistently isolated upfront which also required Tau to fall deeper in order to get the ball which frustrated the Sundowns team. But try as Sundowns did they could not find the net as they headed into half-time interval deadlocked.
The resumption of the second half was a far more free flowing affair as Sundowns looked to up the ante. Sundowns perhaps should have done better just after the break as Patrick Tignyemb failed to hold onto a cross, but George Lebese’s effort lacked the necessary venom and was cleared off the line by the Celtic defender.
With the game having reached the hour mark, Sundowns were bossing the play, and once again they were struggling to break down Celtic’s defence, who were resolute. Sundowns though, did threaten from a free kick that had Tignyemb worried as the ball sailed just over the bar from Tau’s well struck effort from the edge of the box.
Although, the action on the field was leaving much to be desired as neither side were able to grab the ascendency, in the stands the fans were clearly enjoying themselves. In an effort to turn things around and find a breakthrough, Mosimane threw on their perennial game changer in Anthony Laffor for George Lebese.
The change added a bit more pace and attacking impetus into the Sundowns attack. But yet again, Sundowns were kept quiet as Brockie in particular struggled, and with just 10 minutes remaining it looked as though both sides were content as Sundowns were allowed to slow down the pace of the game.
But Mosimane was not resting on his laurels and in a final throw of the proverbial dice brought on Thokozani Sekotlong and Kekana for the remaining minutes of the game. While they did little to affect the result, Thapelo Morena had a golden opportunity to score a winner at the death, but Tignyemb made a superb effort, guaranteeing that both sides would share the spoils.