It was round two for Mamelodi Sundowns and Cape Town City as the former travelled to the Mother City for an enticing affair.
Both sides met nearly a week ago in the league, and it was Sundowns who walked away with three points, but coach Benni McCarthy and his troops were determined to rewrite the wrongs of their previous 3-2 defeat.
Buoyed on by a come-from-behind victory against Bidvest Wits and the potential to narrow the gap between them and Sundowns, McCarthy fielded a strong line-up using the partnership of Siphelele Mthembu and Kermit Erasmus for the first time this season upfront.
Mthembu was City’s top scorer with seven goals while Erasmus has scored two, but the duo was kept isolated during the opening minutes with Sundowns’ defensive pairing of Rivaldo Coetzee and Mosa Lebusa resolute.
However, it was Sundowns who looked dangerous from the onset as they were determined to extend their lead at the top of the log, and their desire showed in their approach as they were not prepared to sit back, with Emiliano Tade and top scorer Lebohang Maboe leading the line, while Gaston Sirino offered support from midfield.
It didn’t take long for the attacking partnership to find its feet at Athlone Stadium as Tade played Maboe through on goal with 14 minutes played and the 24-year-old made no mistake with a deft touch taking the ball past Peter Leeuwenburgh for his seventh goal of the season.
The goal was certainly coming as Sundowns were opening their opponents up with relative ease.
Meanwhile, City were eager to respond and the combination of Mthembu and Erasmus almost proved inspired, but Mthembu just lacked the accuracy to take full advantage of a brilliant move, which left coach McCarthy frustrated.
With Teko Modise rested for City, youngster Zukile Kewuti was struggling alongside Thato Mokeke which saw Sundowns dictate the midfield battle and create some positive moments towards the end of the half.
But while Sundowns did look the brighter of the two sides going forward, they were unable to double their advantage as they headed into the break.
Nonetheless, as expected, City came out from the interval a lot more positive and attack minded.
They immediately had the Tshwane giants on the backfoot as they defended much higher up the field which allowed them to play with a lot more intensity.
Heading into the game, City had scored 21.6% of their goals within the opening 15 minutes of the second half and they did not have to wait long to add to that statistic as Kewuti set up Erasmus, who made no mistake from point-blank range.
It was the former Orlando Pirates hitman’s second goal against Sundowns in successive games.
City’s 38th league goal of the season, immediately had Sundowns in sixes and sevens with Riyaad Norodien coming more into the game which lifted the excitement levels at a windy Athlone Stadium.
But the threat of Sundowns’ attack remained with Tade turning playmaker as he played Themba Zwane through on goal just before the hour mark, only for the attacker to rifle his shot against the post.
City’s technical team responded by bringing on Gift Links as well as prepared to introduce former Fulham winger Chris David.
Before David was brought on, City survived a mighty scare when Leeuwenburgh produced a stunning save to deny a powerful Tebogo Langerman shot from close range.
The changes certainly impacted the game as Sundowns were forced to backtrack. Kennedy Mweene who was rarely tested throughout the night, then needed to be aware as he produced a quality save to palm Thamsanqa Mkhize’s effort from range.
City are a side known to end their games strong and they were living up to their reputation frustrating Sundowns, but with just two minutes remaining in regulation time, the game saw David slay Goliath as the 25-year-old executed a freekick to perfection.
The goal was the decisive blow and sweet revenge for McCarthy and his troops.