All eyes fell on the Lucas Moripe Stadium as Sundowns had a chance to return to the summit of the Premier Soccer League (PSL) table, albeit temporarily. Masandawana went into their crucial encounter hoping to bounce back against Stars. Sundowns suffered an untimely defeat against Bidvest Wits on Monday, meaning that nothing less than three-points would be acceptable on the night, if they were to keep up their title defence.
Ahead of kick-off, Sundowns’ coach Pitso Mosimane rang the changes due to injuries and fatigue. Sundowns were without the defensive duo of Ricardo Nascimento and Tebogo Langerman for the clash. The pair were replaced by Mzikayise Mashaba and Thabo Nthethe.
Meanwhile, Stars’ coach Cavin Johnson opted for his strongest possible XI, making five changes to the side which suffered a 2-0 defeat against Ajax Cape Town. The Rustenburg-based outfit were desperate for a win as they were in danger of falling into the relegation zone.
Sundowns began the clash brightly and they did not have to wait long to break the deadlock. With only six minutes on the clock, Nthethe capitalised on a goalmouth scramble.Following a Sundowns corner, the veteran calmly slotted his effort past Mbongeni Mzimela.
Sundowns were a constant threat from dead ball situations and minutes later, the defending champions almost profited from yet another corner. But on this occasion, Nthethe failed to direct header goal wards.
Despite Sundowns’ dominance, Dikwena found the equaliser in the 15th minute. Ndumiso Mabena showed great strength and worked his way through the Sundowns’ defence, before unleashing a shot which had the beating of Sundowns’ keeper Denis Onyango.
The goal seemed to have spurred the Stars’ attack on as the Sundowns’ defence had to be at their best to thwart the dangerous Mabena on several occasions. With half an hour played in the clash, the action had simmered down considerably. The Brazilians’ were struggling to breakdown the Stars’ defence as they were compact in the middle of the park. Coach Johnson deployed a five-man midfield to stop Sundowns from dominating the midfield.
The remainder of the half was a frustrating affair. Both sides opted for long range efforts which did little to trouble either keeper. Nonetheless, both teams went into the break deadlocked and desperate for an improved second half showing.
The resumption of the second half saw Sundowns looking to get onto the front foot early. Yannick Zakri who was rather anonymous in the first half started showing glimpses of what he could do as he played a dangerous ball across the face of goal. However, the cross was slightly over hit as no Sundowns’ player could latch onto the ball.
With 53 minutes played, Sundowns were yet again punished against the run of play. Mabena grabbed his second goal after the Sundowns’ defence were caught napping, following a quick free kick. The 29-year-old lashed home his effort, beating Onyango at his near post.
The goal livened up the encounter as Sundowns went in search of salvation. On the hour mark, Zakri was wonderfully denied by Mzimela, but almost immediately the Ivorian got his elusive goal. Zakri fired his effort into the top of the Stars’ goal from close range.
Nevertheless, the match opened up and Stars had an opportunity to regain their lead, but Onyango made a fantastic diving save to deny Bongi Ntuli.
With just over 20 minutes remaining in the clash, Laffor was guilty of squandering a golden opportunity. The winger found himself with only the keeper to beat but fired his effort straight at Mzimela.
Time was running out and coach Mosimane threw on Teko Modise in hope of injecting some much-needed creativity. Sundowns were stretching the Stars’ defence but they were let down by their final ball. Laffor had another glorious opportunity to rescue the three points in the dying minutes, but the Liberian failed to get his shot on target from close range.
In stoppage time Stars were reduced to 10 men. Sphamandla Milo was given his marching orders after picking up a second yellow card. But it would not affect the outcome of the match as Stars claimed a valuable point in their fight for survival.