Marumo Gallants frustrate Mamelodi Sundowns to hold the premiership leaders to a draw
Premiership leaders and champions Mamelodi Sundowns are not invincible after all and actually do have some frailties, it seems.
This week, in particular, exposed chinks in their armour and after AmaZulu beat the Pretoria side 1-0 to end their unbeaten run this season — Augustine Mulenga came off the bench to score the only goal of the match at Kings Park stadium — it was the turn of Marumo Gallants to give them something to think about at Loftus stadium on Thursday afternoon.
Gallants held the champions to a deserved 1-1 draw to ensure that Sundowns managed to win a single point from their last two matches, preventing the leaders from continuing to put a hefty gap between themselves and the chasing pack.
Ndabayithethwa Ndlondo scored from the penalty spot to put the visitors in the lead in the 31st minute, but Sundowns came from behind to equalise through Lesedi Kapinga in the 35th minute.
This week's developments will be welcomed by Sundowns' rivals, because while the Brazilians still enjoy a 15-point lead over second-placed Stellenbosch, the damage could have been far greater had they won the two matches this week. But the position on the 16-team standings could still change as fifth-placed AmaZulu face fourth-placed Orlando Pirates later on Thursday with both sides on 27 points.
Sundowns were determined to get things going very early in the match and Aubrey Modiba should have put them in the lead inside 90 seconds when he received a pass from Andile Jali. But Modiba could not find a way past visiting goalkeeper King Ndlovu and his tame shot was saved by the goal minder.
Modiba had another opportunity moments later, but Ndlovu was having none of it and stood his ground to deny him the chance. Gallants finally settled down after withstanding relentless early pressure from the home side in the opening minutes and should have taken the lead themselves when Katlego Otladisa hit the upright with Sundowns goalkeeper Ricardo Goss well-beaten.
The pace of the match was furious and Ndlovu was called back into action at the opposite end of the pitch when he made a brilliant save from his own player Ayanda Nkili, who miscued a clearance that nearly flew into the back of the net in the 25th minute.
The visitors' luck finally turned when Ricardo Nascimento handled the ball inside the area and Ndlondo made no mistake from the penalty spot to put the Limpopo side in the lead in the 31st minute.
But the visitors' lead did not last very long as Kapinga drew level after an excellent pass from Jali, finally beating Ndlovu with a fine delivery in the 35th minute. Sundowns could have taken the lead through Brian Onyango, but Lebogang Mabotla cleared off the line to deny the home side.
The two teams went to the halftime break level and while they continued to create several opportunities during the second period, Goss and Ndlovu did not concede any more goals, with the match playing out to a stalemate.
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