Should be New Slovakian striker Safranko gets crucial semifinal strike for Sundowns
Mamelodi Sundowns’ Slovakian striker Pavol Safranko gave his new club a huge chance to advance to the MTN8 final scoring an 85th-minute late equaliser to draw 1-1 against Lamontville Golden Arrows in Saturday’s first leg.
At a cold, wet and windy Sugar Ray Xulu Stadium in Durban Safranko announced himself to SA football when he tapped in Thabiso Kutumela’s cross after Arrows keeper Sifiso Mlungwana failed to clear it.
The Durban side had taken a sixth-minute home lead via Nqobeka Dlamini’s long range ground shot and Abafana Besithende looked certain to go to Pretoria with an important lead. Safranko’s goal will now be enough to take the Brazilians to the final on away goal rule if the second leg in a month’s time ends in a goalless draw.
Dlamini’s opener came as a result of the home team’s counter-pressing Sundowns, with Arrows’ Dlamini, Velemseni Ndwandwe, Saziso Magawana and Pule Mmodi denying space for Andile Jali, Rivaldo Coetzee and Siphelele Mkhulise in midfield.
With the wind also blowing top Arrows’ advantage, it was only towards the end of the first half that Sundowns started to have the ball and create chances in attack via wingbacks Thapelo Morena and Lyle Lakay, attempting to bring in crosses for strikers Peter Shalulile and Kermit Erasmus.
It was Mkhulise, though, who should have given the visitors an equaliser but his shot just outside the area was too tame to trouble Mlungwana.
Sundowns defender Rushine de Reuck was also unlucky to see his header off Gaston Sirino’s corner cleared off the line by Ndwandwe immediately after the restart as Sundowns took control of the ball with the wind now in their favour.
But even with that Arrows never stopped creating attacks and Ndwandwe nearly doubled the lead with another looping shot from the right flank, Onyango just managing to push the ball away from the danger area.
Defending in numbers, Arrows just managed to hold onto their lead as Sundowns looked dangerous every time they crossed the halfway line, especially after Aubrey Modiba had replaced Mkhulise on the hour mark.
Adding more ammunition upfront the Sundowns bench brought on Safranko and Kutumela in the 70th minute and the two nearly combined five minutes later when Kutumela crossed, only for Safranko to miss what would have been another easy tap-in.
The duo never gave up and got their reward when they duly punished the home side five minutes from time.