Soccer

Downs not home and dry

25 February 2018 - 00:00 By MARC STRYDOM

It is far from a foregone conclusion that Mamelodi Sundowns will run away with the 2017-18 Absa Premiership.
Downs followed up Wednesday's 1-1 home draw against Free State Stars at Loftus Versfeld with last night's stalemate by the same score against SuperSport United at Lucas Moripe Stadium.
And with Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates, Maritzburg United and Free State Stars breathing down the Brazilians' necks, the league is truly open.
Thabo Mnyamane, in the 12th minute, took advantage for SuperSport's opener on one of many occasions when Downs, for some reason uncharacteristically trying to play the offside trap in defence, were caught square or confused.
Sundowns struggled for a solution to a SuperSport who sat deep but could produce a lightning counter.
A bit of deception from a free-kick finally did set up Percy Tau for a 79th-minute equaliser.
SuperSport, enjoying a mini-recovery from a torrid second half of 2017-18 to sit in 10th coming into the game, were unashamedly defensively laid out by coach Eric Tinkler.
They had three centrebacks (Siyabonga Nhlapo, Morgan Gould and Clayton Daniels), wingbacks (Grant Kekana and Richard Boateng), and their standard three central midfielders (Dean Furman, Reneilwe Letsholonyane and Teboho Mokoena).
Forwards Mnyamane and Evans Rusike made for two out-and-out attacking players as Matsatsantsa were clearly set up to sit and wait for the counterattack.
Downs might have had an early opener. Khama Billiat's volley was touched on by Thapelo Morena, making for a good save from Ronwen Williams.
If SuperSport were looking to catch Downs, they did, and not just on the break but napping too.
From Boateng's route-one kick Mnyamane had space to run into on the left, finishing calmly and low past Denis Onyango.
Downs could have bounced straight back, Billiat doing the hard work to beat Gould down the left and square, Tau miscuing with the goal open.
With SuperSport parking the spaceship Enterprise, Downs had to go through their routine of trying to pry open the defence. They did not find it easy. Tebogo Langerman's chip before the break found Themba Zwane free, his header meeting another athletic stop by Williams.
In the second half Sundowns notably stepped up the tempo, and also brought on Sibusiso Vilakazi for a limping Billiat.
Vilakazi shot across the face and Gaston Sirino struck a free-kick onto the right upright.
Downs cleverly equalised. From a free-kick Hlompo Kekana impressed with his acting skills in feigning to line up a shot, but chipped instead, finding Tau to trap, make space and finally beat Williams. - TimesLIVE

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