Stars hold out to beat Sundowns
Visitors Platinum Stars took an early lead and held on for a nervy 1-0 win over struggling Mamelodi Sundowns in a Premiership encounter in Atteridgeville on Saturday evening.
Having stuttered to a slow start this season, Stars picked up three valuable points, boosting them up the league table, while the hosts dropped down down to the relegation zone, having picked up only four points from seven matches.
Sundowns owner Patrice Motsepe watched on from the stands – making his first appearance at a Downs outing this season after the Premier Soccer League and the club charged a group of their supporters for crowd violence earlier in the week.
Security forces, aided by police, were on high alert at the ground, removing a group of Sundowns fans from the stadium for suspicious behaviour before the match got under way.
Sundowns welcomed back midfield stalwart Teko Modise, who recovered from a niggling injury and started in under-fire coach Johan Neeskens's run-on XI.
Modise was in action as early as the seventh minute, as the midfielder unleashed a shot at goal after rounding two defenders, forcing Stars goalkeeper Siyabonga Mpontshane to parry his effort before the defence removed the danger.
Seven minutes later, Botes capitalised on a defensive blunder by Esrom Nyandoro, who gifted his opponent a perfect chance to break the deadlock.
Botes duly obliged, firing past Sundowns goalkeeper Wayne Sandilands, who could not reach the rocketed effort, to hand Stars the lead.
Four minutes later, Botes was in the thick of things again as he volleyed a shot at goal, but he was kept out by Sandilands.
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The hosts found their feet towards the middle of the opening period, with Eleazar Rogers attempting an audacious half-volley after he spotted Mpontshane off his line, but the shot-stopper backtracked in time and tipped the shot over for a corner.
Modise continued to trouble the Stars' back row and came close to leveling the scores in the 28th minute but fired his effort wide after good work in the area.
The second period saw the home side growing increasingly frustrated by their lack of opportunities as Stars set their players out to defend their first-half lead.
The Brazilians continued to look for chances, eventually finding an opportunity with 20 minutes left on the clock, as Punch Masenamela drove a low shot at goal. It was not enough to trouble Mpontshane, who made an orthodox save to keep his side ahead.
Sundowns were in with another opportunity six minutes later, when substitute Anthony Laffor volleyed narrowly wide after a crossed ball floated over two Stars defenders, before finding an unmarked Laffor who failed to convert.
As the clock wound down, Sundowns dominated possession and territory but the Rustenberg outfit held out to secure victory under immense pressure from the home side.