Arrows deny Sundowns three points in Durban
A better goal difference may be all that will ensure that Mamelodi Sundowns finish 2020 on top of the DStv Premiership after squandering an early lead to draw 1-1 with Lamontville Golden Arrows at the Sugar Ray Xulu Stadium in Durban on Saturday.
Sundowns have a +5 goal difference over Swallows FC, the only side with a chance of matching their 18 points on top of standings after eight rounds.
The high flying Dube Birds need to beat Black Leopards in Thohoyandou today to end the year on the same number of points with the defending champions who couldn’t make use of dominating possession on Saturday’s match.
Looking ahead to their first round Caf Champions League tie against Jwaneng Galaxy in Botswana on Tuesday, Sundowns co-head coach Rulani Mokwena rested the club’s talisman and top scorer Themba Zwane and the plan seem to work perfectly when debutant Mthobi Mvala gave the visitors the lead in the 17th minute.
Mvala powerfully headed Lyle Lakay’s corner kick but Arrows quickly showed why they started this match unbeaten when they found an equalizer five minutes later, with Michael Gumede opening his league account with a delightful near post header after some great work by Ntsako Makhubela on the left.
Mvala, a player who was yet to make his debut at Sundowns after being part of the coterie of stars that joined the Brazilians before the start of 2020-21 season, started ahead of George Maluleka, another player Mokwena didn’t include in yesterday’s team ahead of their journey to Gaborone on Monday.
Playing with Andile Jali in the heart of Brazilians engine room Mvala seem to settle quickly though Arrows midfielder Makhubela, Seth Parusanathy and Velemseni Ndwandwe always look to take advantage of the little space they had.
The home side might have struggled to match Sundowns in the first 45 minutes but as soon as the second stanza started they also grew in confidence and created a few openings, with Nduduzo Sibiya coming close with a free-kick before the hour mark.
Playing in scorching weather conditions the game slowed down a bit in the last 30 minutes and there was nothing to separate the two sides in what was Steve Komphela's, now a Sundowns senior coach, first reunion with Mandla Ncikazi who succeeded him as Abafana Bes’thende’s head coach.
There were fears that the coaching changes could severely affect and unsettle Arrows but so far Ncikazi has proven those doubting thomases wrong, with yesterday’s draw, the sixth, keeping their unbeaten run intact.
Ncikazi came to yesterday’s match hoping to repeat what he and Komphela did to the Brazilians in November last year. Arrows beat the Brazilians 3-2 but lost 1-0 in the second round tie in a season that was completed in a bio bubble in Gauteng.
The Arrows coach could have seen his side stealing all the three points right at the death had referee Jelly Chavani awarded the home side a penalty when Sundowns goalkeeper Denis Anyango elbowed Matome Mathiane inside the area.
But after consulting with the fourth official Chavani waved play on, a decision that saw the match ending in a stalemate that keep the unbeaten record for both sides.