MAMELODI Sundowns could only manage a slender 1-0 win over a businesslike Black Leopards side in the last-16 stage of the Nedbank Cup here yesterday.
The score underlined Leopards' resistance. They did not play like a club that is campaigning in the National First Division.
In fact, the Venda side could easily have been at least two goals ahead before the interval but they wasted their chances in front of goal.
The Brazilians had to wait until late in the match to break the deadlock, thanks to skipper Esrom Nyandoro.
The industrious Zimbabwean struck with six minutes remaining and the goal was well received by Sundowns supporters who were convinced that the contest was heading to extra time.
The Leopards defence, marshalled by Lubanzadio Mayasisilua, did exceptionally well to close down Downs' dangerous striker Lerato Chabangu and cut the supply from the roving Benedict "Tso" Vilakazi in the middle of the park. The Sundowns combination unlocked the Leopards defence in the 36th minute but Chabangu fluffed the chance from the edge of the box.
Leopards striker Walter Ramulondi was a threat to the Sundowns defence that was led by former Leopards player Luvhengo Mungomeni. Downs goalie Brian Baloyi made a brilliant save to deny Leopards captain Robert Ng'ambi from close range just before the break.
Leopards had more clear scoring chances in the second half than Downs but fluffed them, with Ramulondi and substitute July Mahlangu the main culprits.
PSL spokesperson Altaaf Kazi said the draw for the quarterfinals will be conducted this morning.