Sundowns take advantage of Fanteni’s card
AJAX CAPE TOWN . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0 MAMELODI SUNDOWNS . . . . . . . . . . . . .(0) 1 (Mushekwi 63rd) SUNDOWNS went seven points clear at the top of the PSL after beating Ajax at Athlone last night – and other title-challengers are going to have to go some way to catch them this season.
The thing about winning titles is that a team has to be able to win ugly. And that is certainly what Sundowns were forced to do last night. For, in essence, for large periods of the 90 minutes, they were chasing the ball.
Ajax played delightful possession football, despite having striker Thembinkosi ‘ Terror’ Fanteni sent off in the 28th minute. You would never have thought Ajax were a man short, such was their domination of possession and the slick nature of their passing game.
The only problem being, as usual, that they couldn’t turn possession into goals.
For Sundowns, the man of the moment was goalkeeper Wayne Sandilands, who delivered two outstanding stops to deny clear-cut and almost sure goals for Ajax.
Ajax made the early running and created chances. Fanteni found himself in space in the ninth minute, but shot straight at Sandilands.
Three minutes later, Ajax captain Brett Evans curled in a teasing free-kick where rightback Thulani Hlatswayo found himself unmarked at the far post. The defender’s header, though, also failed to provide a real test for Sandilands.
It was in the 20th minute, however, that Sandilands earned his salary. This time, Ajax youngster Thulani Serero whipped in the cross and centre-back Clayton Daniels powered a header goalwards. It looked for all the world as if the Capetonians would take the lead, but Sandilands pulled off a magnificent one-handed save.
At this stage, Sundowns had to be content with long range efforts from Franklin Cale, a former Ajax player.
But the game changed dramatically in the 28th minute when Fanteni was ordered off the field. Referee Jacob Frolick adjudged that the Ajax striker had dived in, studs up, in a tackle on Matthew Booth.
Fanteni was shown a straight red card – and, on reflection, there can be no doubting the decision. It was a rash, gratuitous challenge.
The man advantage paid immediate dividends for Sundowns. While they may have played second fiddle to Ajax in the opening period, the sending off gave the Pretoria team the boost they needed. And, just two minutes later, Katlego Mphela had an opportunity to get Sundowns on the board, but struck his shot narrowly wide of goal.
But Ajax, even with 10 men, were certainly in no mood to give in. They battled away and had the better chances in the opening 15 minutes of the second half, with Doutie, Serero and Hlatswayo all going close.
Football, though, is a cruel game as Ajax were to discover.
Despite all their hard work, they lost focus at the back and conceded a goal when substitute Nyasha Mushekwi, with his first touch of the ball, headed in Lebohang Mokoena’s corner.
Even that setback failed to deter Ajax and they continued to play football of a high quality. Khama Biliat had an opportunity to equalise in the 72nd minute, but again it was Sandilands who rescued the situation with another fine save.
All in all, it was workmanlike, professional performance from Sundowns. They were away from home and they knew that Ajax had to chase the game – and the points. And, in the end, irrespective of the nature of the victory, the log leaders got the job done.
Ajax will look back at what could have been. They were good value as far as performance was concerned, despite playing with 10 men for 62 minutes, but they still failed to get the vital points.
It means that Ajax have a mountain to climb to reel Sundowns in next year. And the Cape side may well have to hope the leaders hit a bad patch, else their PSL title-ambitions will have to be put on hold for another season – yet again!
Maritzburg United suffered their third successive defeat in the Premiership when they went down 2-0 to Free State Stars at Harry Gwala Stadium last night after spurning a glut of scoring opportunities.
Overall Maritzburg have now gone six matches without a win in the league, which must be a big worry, while Free State have recorded four wins in their last six games after a quiet start to the season.