Sundowns travelled to KwaZulu-Natal, knowing that victory would propel them to the summit of the Premier Soccer League (PSL) table. Masandawana’s recent resurgence has seen them back amongst the chasing pack and following losses by Bidvest Wits and Kaizer Chiefs in midweek, the Tshwane giants were perfectly placed with only a handful of results remaining. However, Brazilians’ coach Pitso Mosimane stated in the build-up to the encounter that he still believed that Cape Town City were favourites for the title.
Meanwhile, Arrows coach Clinton Larsen was counting on past glory to inspire them, on Friday evening. Most recently, Abafana Bes’thende eliminated the African Champions from the Nedbank Cup, but their season has stuttered of late, as they suffered defeat against Polokwane City in midweek.
The midweek defeat led coach Larsen to make four changes to his starting line-up, and one thing was certain was Arrows had an abundance of pace in their squad. Nonetheless, Sundowns’ coach Mosimane was looking for continuity as he named an unchanged starting XI for the fourth successive game. In a vote of confidence Mosimane continued to give Percy Tau the nod, despite the 22-year-old’s indifferent form on Tuesday night.
The clash promised to be an exciting affair, as a partisan crowd filled the Princess Magogo Stadium. The Sundowns’ defence knew that they would have to be at their best to contain an exciting Arrows' attack, with the likes of Kudakwashe Mahachi and Nduduzo Sibiya within their ranks.
As expected Arrows were content with Sundowns dominating the possession stats. Sundowns had an opportunity to grab the lead, early on but Tau dragged his shot wide of the Arrows’ goal.
Arrows’ pace on the break was causing the Sundowns’ defence numerous headaches, and with under 10 minutes played in the encounter, Mahachi broke through the Sundowns defence. But the Zimbabwean’s shot was brilliantly saved by Denis Onyango.
In the 16th minute, Arrows’ keeper Nkosingiphile Gumede was forced into his first save of the match. The 23-year-old keeper did well to deny Hlompho Kekana’s swerving drive. The away side were dictating the play but they did little to trouble the Arrows’ defence.
With just under half an hour played, the Arrows defence were again tested but this time Khama Billiat’s shot was headed off the line by Trevor Mathiane after Gumede denied Tebogo Langerman’s initial effort, leaving the goal wide open.
As the half time whistle approached, the game became a cagier affair as both teams struggled to find a breakthrough. Andile Fikizolo had one final opportunity to break the deadlock before half time, but he could not direct Sibiya’s pinpoint cross goalwards, as both sides went into the interval level.
In an attempt to inject some creativity, Mosimane threw on Teko Modise for the second half. Nevertheless, it was Arrows who should have broken the deadlock in the 50th minute. After being played through on goal, Lamola’s shot went agonisingly wide of Onyango’s near post.
Arrows put on a valiant defensive display as they repelled the Sundowns’ attack on several occasions. Mahachi was certainly Arrows’ dangerman on the night, but once again the former Sundowns player was denied by a fantastic Onyango save.
Despite Arrows’ looking the more threatening, it was Sundowns who broke the deadlock in the 57th minute. Kekana showed outstanding technique as the 30-year-old stroked his effort past Gumede, using the outside of his boot. The goal dented Arrows’ confidence and in the 70th minute, Sundowns compelled further misery on their opponents. This time it was defender Madisha who headed home a Modise corner, at the near post. The goal was the 22-year-old’s first goal in the PSL and ended the game as a contest.
Billiat had one final opportunity at the death but he failed to get his name on the scoresheet. Nevertheless, Sundowns confirmed their place at the summit of the PSL log.