Sundowns survive scare to keep pace with Bucs

Sundowns 3 – 2 Chippa United

Mamelodi Sundowns drew level with Orlando Pirates at the top of the log after beating Chippa United in an entertaining Tuesday afternoon game at Loftus Versveld.

Pitso Mosimane’s side came into this one knowing that only a win would do with their rivals threatening to pull away and the PSL yet to decide whether to dock points from their total.

We didn’t have to wait long to confirm their hunger. From the off Downs controlled possession and looked to drive at the opposition goal at every opportunity.

Fortunately for the visitors, the early attacks lacked coherence and broke harmlessly against the defensive line. The failure to stretch the play was telling and Chippa coasted along.

By the 25th minute coach Clinton Larson must have thought his dream scenario was playing out in front of him. After soaking up the latest charge forward, Tebogo Makobela tore down the right and made it to the edge of the box before cutting the ball back. His pass ricocheted before finding Mark Mayambela who was inexplicably given time to turn and hammer in with his left.

Likely fearing a Mosimane rollicking after the defensive lapse, the Brazillians desperately poured forward. Hlompho Kekana, Mosa Lebusa and Tebogo Langerman all took their opportunities to shoot when they were presented to them. All blazed over the crossbar.

It was Kekana, however, who forcefully broke the cycle. Two minutes from the break, Gaston Sirino sent in a gorgeous in swinger from a free kick on the right touchline; the captain wanted it the most and rose above everyone else to power a header past a despairing Mbongeni Mzimela. 1-1 at half-time.

Downs had no intent of repeating the mistakes of the first after referee Victor Gomes blew the whistle to signal the start of the second half. Only 10 minutes in, a neat move found Langerman in a chasm of space down the left. The left-back easily found Sibusiso Vilakazi striding towards the near post and he in-turn calmly slotted home.

By the 68th minute the game was all but done. The Chippa defence pressed the self-destruct button and carelessly gave the ball back to Sirino. The Uruguayan, as expected, duly punished them with a far-post drive.

At 3-1, the home side would go on to blow a handful of chances with casual finishing but it hardly seemed like it would matter. Until it nearly did. Andile Mbenyane sent a nonchalant lobbed pass into the box and it floated over everyone until finding Rhulani Manzini who made no mistake on the half volley.

It set up a nervy last 10 minutes at Loftus but some smart saves by Kennedy Mweene retained the 3-2 scoreline.

The win is a vital three points gained for the Brazillians who keep the pressure on at the top of the table. For relegation-threatened Chippa, however, it completes a horrid few days that saw them knocked out of the Nedbank Cup and their chief executive Morgan Mammila resign.

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Luke Feltham

Luke Feltham runs the Mail & Guardian's sports desk. He was previously the online day editor.

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