Downs dumped out of Cup by bogey team
JOHANNESBURG: On paper, Mamelodi Sundowns’ heavy artillery – especially with the addition of Oupa Manyisa and George Lebese – had already won them this MTN8 quarter-final fixture against Maritzburg United yesterday.
But, come to think of it, the reality was that they were facing their bogey team. Often when these two sides face off , there’s hardly anything electric about the encounter itself – until Maritzburg take a “surprise” lead, which is a regular occurrence.
Last season, for instance, the Team of Choice held the Brazilians to a goalless draw in the opening PSL game at the Harry Gwala Stadium almost 12 months ago.
And then Maritzburg derailed Sundowns’ title defence at this very venue in the second round fixture by winning 2-0. One of the scorers that night, striker Evans Rusike, was tormentor-in-chief again here with a goal that proved to be the winner to send Maritzburg to the semifinals of the season-opening tournament, where they joined defending champions Wits, SuperSport United and Cape Town City.
Sundowns were, unsurprisingly, mostly dominant as they enjoyed the lion’s share of possession. But they hardly troubled goalkeeper Bongani Mpandle. Kennedy Mweene, too, was a spectator for much of the game at the other end of the pitch until Rusike struck close to the hour mark.
This game had been typical of a season opener for both sides before then – heavy legs, slow pace and wayward shots.
Neither of the two teams were sharp enough when the odd opportunity to take the lead presented itself.
But with Percy Tau, Khama Billiat, Sibusiso Vilakazi and Yannick Zakri leading the line for Sundowns, the hosts should have been slightly more potent in attack and more accurate with their attempts.
They looked even sharper when they were trailing, coach Pitso Mosimane deciding to bring on both his new boys in former Orlando Pirates captain Manyisa and Lebese, who arrived from Kaizer Chiefs on Thursday.
Maritzburg held on, however – parking the bus if you like, and who can blame them given what was thrown at them so late into the encounter.
Their coach Fadlu Davids, now finally permanently at the helm after several impressive stints as caretaker, cautiously set up his stall to guarantee victory.
He, too, had an ace up his sleeve, although it was a defensive one, when Siyanda Xulu, another arrival from Chiefs and also a former Sundowns star, was called on to help keep the Brazilians at bay.
Davids will earn further praise from fans, neutrals and his bosses after this win.