Injury blow for Sundowns as they edge SuperSport in Nedbank last-32
Mamelodi Sundowns progression to the last-16 of the Nedbank Cup has come at a massive cost as they have almost certainly lost the services of utility player Thapelo Morena for the season.
Morena was stretchered off in the 69th minute with a serious twisted ankle injury he sustained while tackling Onismor Bhashera, replaced by Lebohang Maboe in Sundowns' narrow 1-0 win over SuperSport United in the Tshwane derby on Saturday night.
Morena’s unavailability this season, where Sundowns are still involved in this tournament, the Caf Champions League and the league, is a huge blow for coach Pitso Mosimane who has used him as a defender, midfielder and striker.
Before the terrible injury, Sundowns were leading the match courtesy of a goal by Sibusiso Vilakazi that came after 24 minutes, assisted by the injured Morena with a delightful cross from the right wing.
For the opening goal, Gaston Sirino released Morena from the midfield and the speedy winger got the better of Clayton Daniels before he delivered a cross to Vilakazi, who stretched his legs to beat Ronwen Williams.
In his celebrations, Vilakazi dedicated the goal to his mother who was celebrating her birthday.
Mosimane started the game with two changes from the 1-0 win over Wydad Casablanca in the Champions League last weekend with Mosa Lebusa coming on for Lyle Lakay and Vilakazi replacing Maboe.
His United counterpart Kaitano Tembo made three changes to the team who lost their last match against Golden Arrows with Grant Kekana, Sipho Mbule and Thamsanqa Gabuza replacing Luke Fleurs, Gamphani Lungu and Waisiwa Ndhondhi.
For United, their next match is against Stellenbosch away from home on Friday while the Brazilians turn their attention to the bread and butter business of the league with a home visit by Chippa United the following day.
The goal injected more life into Sundowns’s work as a few minutes later they found themselves on the edge of the United box but Andile Jali’s goal-bound shot came off the body of Daniels.
Sundowns' players protested that the ball hit the hands of Daniels in the crowded penalty box but referee Masixole Bambiso waved play-on.
United could have equalised just after the half-hour mark but a curling shot by Teboho Mokoena on the edge of the box went wide off the target after Motjeka Madisha failed to clear the danger.
Just before the break, United wasted another chance to draw level when Sipho Mbule unleashed a tame shot to Sundowns goalkeeper Denis Onyango after a good attacking move that involved Dean Furman, Mokoena and Thamsanqa Gabuza.
On the hour mark, Sirino took on a number of United defenders in a delightful solo run but his shot flew over the crossbar as the Brazilians went all out to for the insurance goal.
In the closing stages, United tried in vain to salvage something out of this game but Sundowns held on for another victory over their cross-town rivals.