Sundowns break shoot-out hoodoo

After all the endless mediocre, soulless PSL games played in front of near-empty stadiums, Mamelodi Sundowns’ penalty shoot-out victory over rivals Kaizer Chiefs in the Nedbank Cup at King’s Park in Durban on Sunday evening provided high drama and exceptional entertainment.

The Brazilians ended a hoodoo against Chiefs during which they have been edged out by the Amakhosi in five Cup shoot-outs between the teams, but won 5-4 on penalties this time after the sides had been deadlocked at 1-1 after extra-time.

And, to Sundowns’ credit, the elusive triumph before a tense 42 000 crowd was achieved while playing with 10 men during the final 14 minutes after substitute Brent Carelse was sent off for a retaliatory infringement.

Chiefs opened the score a minute after half-time via a goal from Mmabuthi Khanyeza following the second of the two prolonged stoppages in the game through the partial failure of the stadium’s lights.

But, after the adroit, ice-cool Surprise Moriri had equalised for the Brazilians in the 77th minute, with Itumeleng Khune in Chiefs’ goal only partially saving a snap shot from South American substitute Bryan Aldave, the game underwent another uncanny pattern change as Sundowns took control.

The game, in truth, had more twists than an Agatha Christie mystery, with Sundowns losing goalkeeper Calvin Marlin through injury in the 70th minute as a result of a stupendous, point-blank save from Khanyeza when the Chiefs’ striker seemed certain to seal the issue with a second goal.

But Sundowns were fortunate to have a replacement as competent as Brian Baloyi on the bench and it was the former Chiefs’ hero who made a superb 90th minute save from a Gerald Sibeko free-kick that threatened to regain the lead for the Amakhosi—before making the critical save from Tuso Phala in the shoot-out that won the game.

Amakhosi coach Muhsin Ertugal’s assessment that “we had all the chances in the world to have progressed to the quarterfinals and can only blame ourselves for not taking them” was spot on—with no one knowing exactly how Khanyeza missed a crucial opportunity from three metres in the 34th minute.

Now, however, it is Sundowns of the two PSL giants who will bid for a revival of fortunes after both these vaunted teams have wallowed in the bottom half of the Premier League table during the current season. - Sapa

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