10-man Sundowns drop points as Wits maintain lead

23 February 2019 - 20:17 By SAZI HADEBE at Bidvest Stadium
Tiyani Mabunda of Mamelodi Sundowns and Thulani Hlatshwayo of Bidvest Wits during the Absa Premiership match between Bidvest Wits and Mamelodi Sundowns at Bidvest Stadium on February 23, 2019 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Tiyani Mabunda of Mamelodi Sundowns and Thulani Hlatshwayo of Bidvest Wits during the Absa Premiership match between Bidvest Wits and Mamelodi Sundowns at Bidvest Stadium on February 23, 2019 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Image: Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images

The destination of this season’s league title remains in the balance with log leaders Bidvest Wits failing to beat a 10-men second-placed Mamelodi Sundowns at their packed tiny Milpark Stadium on Saturday night.

With nine matches to play for most teams there’s still a plenty of football to be played and this result gave little in terms of showing who between these favoured sides is likely to walk away with a winners cheque of R10 million in May.

With two games in hand and still two points behind Wits, Sundowns won’t feel too bad about this result having played the last 60 minutes of this game one man down after defender Wayne Arendse was given an early shower for a rough tackle.

Seen as a mouth-watering top of the table clash, this encounter did live up to its billing in the first stanza which was played at a frantic pace with both sides pulling no punches.

The same cannot be said though about the second half which saw Sundowns failing to take a single shot at Darren Keet's goal as they settled for a point.

It was the visitors Sundowns, though, who dominated play in the first 20 minutes and their efforts were rewarded as early as the seventh minute when former Wits striker Phakamani Mahlambi fired home his second goal of the season after Keet failed to hold on to Themba Zwane’s fierce shot.

In a season full of silly mistakes, Wits were to benefit from one when Sundowns’most trusted defender, Ricardo Nascimento, failed to trap a harmless back pass in the 30th minute and Gift Motupa made no mistake, chipping the ball pass a bemused Dennis Onyango to register his seventh goal of the season.

As Wits gained more confidence after levelling matters, in contrast the situation got worse for Pitso Mosimane’s side when Arendse was shown a red card in the 37th minute for a clumsy foul on Fagrie Lakay, the man he was left with when the Sundowns defence was caught off square.

Controversy seemed to follow Arendse in this fixture. Sundowns could lose a point they gained in the first round of this match with the PSL having charged them for fielding Arendse even though he was not in the team sheet that had the team to face Wits in a game that also ended 1-1 at Loftus Stadium.

The departure of Arendse forced Mosimane to reshuffle his back four with Lebusa switching from left back to partner Nascimento and Lyle Lakay drawn from the middle to play as a wingback on the left.

Looking to press for a winner with a one man advantage, Wits coach Gavin Hunt introduced former Sundowns winger Elias Pelembe for Keegan Ritchie at the restart, but to their credit Sundowns continued with their game plan of trying to penetrate Wits with their quick short passes between the lines.

For Mosimane and his side, the second half was just a matter of managing the game for a point with all possession given to Wits, who tried in vain to find holes that could give them a goal to gain them the full spoils.

Mosimane had even pronounced even before this match that a point gained will not be a bad for his team because they will still remain two points off Wits with a two game advantage.

Scorers:

Wits – Gift Motupa (30min)

Sundowns  - Phakamani Mahlambi (7min)

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